Now that the special session concluded without a solution to fill a one billion dollar budget shortfall in July, TOPS funding could be cut by 80 percent. Higher Education Commissioner Joe Rallo says many parents can’t afford to send their kids to college without some financial help. Those college prospects are looking elsewhere to get their education.
"Students who have a 30, 31, 32 ACT's, they're already being courted by Alabama and Texas and Arkansas schools saying 'we'll match your TOPS, we'll guarantee your TOPS' and we're already seeing students leaving."
Governor Edwards has hinted at calling another special session at the end of the regular session to continue to find a way to cover the loss of one billion dollars. Rallo says legislators will need to consider funding both TOPS and higher education. One can’t go without the other.
"You have a TOPS award without any classes, without any faculty, without any internships. So you've got to also look at funding Higher Ed., which is also taking a cut, so that the TOPS recipients have classes and have faculty members."
Rallo says if funding for Higher Education and TOPS is wiped out, it will hurt more than just the students, their families and faculty. It could cripple the state’s economy.
"If you want to attract businesses, want to retain the businesses that we have, you have to have a trained and educated workforce. And if you keep chopping away at that trained and educated workforce, this state is not going to have the economic future that it deserves."