NEW ORLEANS – Local college administrators said Wednesday they’ve seen more numbers of transfers as students are deciding to stay closer to home amid financial worries with the TOPS program.

One day, Fred Watts hopes to open up his own restaurant.

“I grew up in the kitchen because my dad always worked in the kitchen so I was always there helping him,” said Watts.

A freshman at Delgado Community college, Watts explained that like many of his friends, he chose his college based on his TOPS scholarship reward.

“I didn’t know if I was going to receive as much as I needed so I decided just to apply here,” Watts explained.

Watts is among the nearly 51,000 TOPS students who’ve fallen victim to state budget cuts that trimmed the state scholarship program by nearly 30 percent, and more cuts could be on the horizon.

“Instead of living on campus paying all of the campus dorm fees, I drive to school and live at home with my parents,” said Watts.

So more students and parents are making the hard decision to transfer closer to home.

“This fall we did see an increase in transfer students, a pretty significant increase in transfer students,” said John Nicklow, president of University of New Orleans.

Nicklow explained with the uncertainty of TOPS he has been trying to encourage his student not to panic but instead to be strategic.

“We’re trying to take advantage of additional Pell Grant dollars, private scholarships, institutional aid, to basically back-fill what TOPS isn’t going to cover,” Nicklow said.

In June, the Louisiana legislature voted to fully fund TOPS scholarships for the fall semester, but in the spring it will plummet to covering only 42 percent of what students need.

That got students like Dillard senior Summer Cox telling incoming freshmen to have multiple financial backup plans.

“Depend on your parents, depend on your hustle, have a job or something because school, financial aid, and TOPS is not going to do it for you these days” Cox said.