No more cuts for TOPS despite budget issues

Louisiana's college scholarship program TOPS will be spared further cuts, a spokesman for Gov. John Bel Edwards said, but higher education institutions could face up to 10 percent mid-year reductions to pay last year's bills.

"We don't have any intention of making further cuts to TOPS," Richard Carbo, a spokesman for the governor, told USA Today Network of Louisiana Friday.

TOPS awards are already diminished. Scholarships for the second semester are only 42 percent of tuition because of cuts issued during last year's budget crisis.

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne told the Joint Legislative Budget Committee the state is $313 million short after the final balancing of the books from the fiscal year ending June 30, which must be made up using current fiscal year funds.

Dardenne said the $313 million could be made up with a 7 percent across-the-board mid-year cut, but all agencies won't be treated equally.

"I don't think we're going to do across-the-board cuts," Dardenne told the committee. "We going to make them in a more selective and reasonable way."

Dardenne was also pessimistic about current-year projections.

"Unfortunately, I fear I'll be before you next month telling you we have a shortfall in the current year," he said.

Northwestern State University President Jim Henderson, who will take over as the University of Louisiana System president Jan. 1, said higher education leaders have been told to prepare for mid-year reductions ranging from 7 to 10 percent.

"Each campus will have it's own plan," Henderson said. "Can it be absorbed without impact? No."

Henderson said higher educations leaders were already concerned about the spring because of the previous reduction to TOPS.

"All of this is happening with the backdrop of TOPS," he said. "We don't know yet how that will impact enrollment in the spring."


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