After about six months of work, the TOPS task force is set to vote on potential changes to the popular state scholarship program Wednesday.
Senator Blade Morrish (R-Jennings) heads up the task force. He suggests changing the award amounts by giving more money to the state’s best students as a way to encourage them to stay in Louisiana.
He says doing so “makes us more competitive with those students who are being recruited by out-of-state universities.”
His proposal also reduces the amount of money given to the scholarship’s largest group of students — those who meet the basic requirements of a 2.5 core high school GPA and a 20 on the ACT. Currently, these students get almost $7,500 a year to attend LSU.
“I propose to change that — leave the qualifications exactly as they are," explains Morrish, "but change that to only a $4,000 stipend.”
That’s less than the average tuition for a four-year school in Louisiana — about $5,600 per year.
Morrish says limiting the award amount may encourage students to consider spending two years at a less-expensive community college.
“That’s where jobs are coming from. That’s the people, that when they get that certificate or that associate’s degree, are going to work immediately," he says.
There has been a bit of opposition to the proposal. Some members worry lowering the scholarship award will put a strain on lower-income students.
Morrish believes there’s support behind his idea — which he estimates would save the state $20 million a year. But, he warns that whatever the task force may agree to, these are just recommendations.
“You still got to run with these bills in the Legislature,” says Morrish.
Wednesday’s vote comes as the state continues to grapple with how to address the billion dollar shortfall for next fiscal year, which starts July 1.