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Higher ed takes $100 million in cuts under new budget

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

Students, faculty and administrators are assessing the damage after the Louisiana Legislature passed a budget calling for cuts to higher education and the TOPS scholarship program.

It's a drumbeat of negative budget news that many say they’re growing tired of: Three sessions in the less than six months, and Monday night the latest one ended with state Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, telling fellow Republican lawmakers, "It's on you."

The session ended at midnight, with the clock striking hardest for kids seeking higher education.

"I'm completely disheartened," said Stokes.

 Lawmakers passed a budget that cuts $100 million from higher education and millions from the TOPS scholarship program, and students worry.

"Really worried, because this university has a lot of great professors, and they could leave," said UNO pre-med student Raufat Nassar.

"Not as many are here anymore. They kind of just jump ship," said UNO grad student J. Washington.

Then there's the issue of TOPS and students who worked hard to earn it. The cuts mean that TOPS recipients will now have to begin paying 30 percent of their tuition costs and admission fees, which can run into the thousands.

"I haven't taken out loans yet, but now I have to start, I guess," said UNO pre-med student Alexis Masson.

"At this point I'm used to it, and you make due with what we can," said Washington.

While students worry about tuition and losing faculty, UNO's president put out this statement: "The current budget is untenable and diminishes talent development for the economy. We remain hopeful that a compromise will be reached."

"Let's talk about it and come up with a solution, or try to at least," said Washington.

But those on the Baton Rouge battle lines aren't sure more talk will help.

"It's just been one failed attempt after another, and neither side will give up territory. I don't know," said Stokes, who adds that the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts and the state math and science school in Nachitoches also received cuts under this budget - while the Legislature gave itself full funding.

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