Budget in turmoil, students to rally at capitol


Arohan Rimal, [email protected]

Louisiana will be facing a budget cut worth $1 billion starting on July 1. Gov. John Bel Edwards plans to deal with this by cutting budgets from either health care or higher education. Students from nine University of Louisiana system schools will be protesting this move in front of the Louisiana State Capitol building on Wednesday, April 11.
Ashley Hunter, a senior kinesiology major, has been trying to raise awareness of the impending cuts to higher education through her social media sites.
“Hopefully the protest will bring attention and even more awareness to the senators. We want them to know that implementing budget cuts in higher education is not going to be worth it in the long run,” Hunter said.
Philip Vu-Ngyuen, a junior health science major, will be attending the protest on Wednesday to “let the senators and state representatives know how much we value education.”
The budget cut may mean an 80 percent decrease in TOPS funding for Louisiana students. So, the exact reduction in the amount of TOPS scholarship cannot yet be declared.
Vu-Ngyuen also received the TOPS performance award worth $1,500 per semester that helps him pay his tuition. He says we will not be able to afford college without TOPS.
“I think it is the case for most students. TOPS has provided a good incentive for students to stay in Louisiana and not choose a different state,” Phillip added.
In the 2014-2015 academic year, 53 percent of students in the University of Louisiana system schools used TOPS scholarships to get through college.
UL system schools used the most TOPS scholarship in this academic year. This means UL system schools will be affected the most by this budget cut.
Daliah Wooten, a senior psychology major, thinks that the budget cuts would not solve the problem. She says that cutting off TOPS would make Louisiana students go to other states which would add to the problem.
“These budget cuts are frustrating and devastating. I believe that it would eventually result to students becoming discouraged about college,” Wooten added.
During 2017 fall semester, 48,800 students going to Louisiana schools received TOPS scholarships.
A total amount of $292 million was spent on TOPS scholarship, according to Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance.
TOPS scholarship pays 100 percent of tuition for a Louisiana public college, and mostly a stipend, for students who earn a 2.5 GPA at a Louisiana high school and a 20 ACT score, according to nola.com.
However, the scholarship does not cover room and board expenses.
Democrats are suggesting covering the budget cut by other forms of revenue, including increasing other kinds of taxes.
However, the Republican-led legislation is not yet on board with the idea.
Shrill Shrestha, a freshman CIS major is also going to Baton Rouge to support the protest.
“I am not from here, and the TOPS cutoff does not affect me, but the fact that the state is putting students education at stake is not fair,” Shrestha added.
Rep. John Schroder has also questioned the use of TOPS scholarship by student-athletes who have 100 percent tuition funding by their athletic scholarship.
Jim Henderson, the president of UL system schools, says that TOPS scholarship for student-athletes has attracted a lot of good athletes to Louisiana schools.
Cutting TOPS might result in Louisiana schools losing talented students and able student-athletes. Another expected outcome of less state funding is Louisiana residents moving out-of-state for college. Rising cost of a college education plus little state funding could see students leave the state in the future.