After Gov. John Bel Edwards proposed his “doomsday budget” on Jan. 22, University students have officially declared their stance through LSU Student Government’s latest actions.
The LSU student senate passed a resolution on Feb. 7 to urge the Louisiana State Legislature to fully fund the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students. This plea is in response to Edwards’ budget presentation for the 2018-19 Fiscal Year. The governor presented a $233.3 million cut to TOPS funding of in-state students.
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Physics sophomore Tyler Porche, biological sciences sophomore Sarah Oliver and mass communication sophomore Frederick Bell are all SG senators who came together to create an official resolution from the student senate that solidified SG’s stance on the budget cuts.
“The goal of the resolution was to send [the message] to everybody in Congress, and actually [give] them a physical sheet of paper that says everybody at LSU doesn’t favor any cuts in TOPS,” Porche said. “That’s kind of our overall goal, just to let people know that we’re still making moves on this, even though it’s already known.”
The passed resolution states the importance of fully funding TOPS in order to retain Louisiana’s best students in higher education to create a brighter future of citizens for our state. It also emphasizes the uncertainty that TOPS cuts causes for prospective college students who continue to look out-of-state for higher education each year.
SG president Jason Badeaux is pleased with the student senate in passing the resolution quickly.
“What’s important about that bill is the timing of it,” Badeaux said. “If our state senators and representatives wait until June to fund TOPS, then so many of our in-state students have already left the state and taken scholarships and acceptances to other universities. What’s important is that we fund TOPS now, in February or in March, before students make decisions about what school they’re going to.”
TOPS currently awards tuition to in-state students with a minimum of 2.5 GPA and at least a 20 on the ACT. In 2017, the University accounted for over 28 percent of TOPS recipients in Louisiana. After TOPS cuts were made in 2017, there was a noticeable decrease in application rates at the University. Porche does not want to see this happen again in 2018.
“School is expensive,” Porche said. “I’ve seen articles where there are students who, after TOPS got cut last year, weren’t able to pay their loans. They had to drop to part-time, etc. Anything on TOPS is relevant [to] any student at LSU who lives within the state.”
A copy of the student senate resolution will be transmitted to all 105 Louisiana House of Representatives, 39 Louisiana Senators and Edwards. SG will continue to work to refund TOPS, Porche said. The next goal is to set up similar resolutions in other colleges around the state, such as Southeastern Louisiana University and Nicholls State University.
“[We are] making a movement to where they really know that every year they can’t take away half of our funding,” Porche said.
“That’s not feasible for us. That’s not an option.”