Students from all across Louisiana traveled to the Capitol on Wednesday to fight against potential cuts to the TOPS program. Those in attendance wore shirts from colleges outside the state to show that students can take their education elsewhere - a place that may be able to give them a scholarships with 100 percent funding.
University alumni Kenneth Lockett and Margrethe Sylvester said when it came to picking schools, they chose to pick one in the state because of the TOPS program.
“I only came [to LSU] because I knew it’d be cheaper.” Sylvester said, “It was very along the lines of financial liability.”
LSU Student Government president Stewart Lockett was one of the co-creators of the rally.
“We collaborated with all of the student governments and their presidents across Louisiana for the need of TOPS,” Lockett said. “I hope one more person is aware of the need for higher education. One more person is aware of the need for students’ care to their education - about the funding for their education.”
LSU English instructors, such as Katie Will and Christina Rothenbeck, were in attendance as well, holding up signs that said “Tax breaks can’t BAYOU an Education” and “I support my students, why doesn’t their legislature?”
“One of the most important things about TOPS is that it will actually help students succeed in the classroom,” Rothenbeck said. “Many of my students have part time jobs; some of them even have two or three part time jobs, and if they have to keep finding more and more money it’s just going to be impossible for them.”
LSU President F. King Alexander attended the rally as well saying wholeheartedly that while the students wearing other universities’ shirts made him a little distressed, but he understands why they’re doing it, and it’s a good message.
“I think it’s great that they’re here,” Alexander said. “The student government has been great, and I think it’s fantastic that they’re here and willing to make sure these guys know the urgency and who’s really at stake here. They shouldn’t be held hostage every year, and that’s what’s been going on.”
Rachel Campbell, the LSU Student Government vice president, opened the rally with her speech on her perspective of TOPS, and what it means to her since she grew up in the Pelican State.
“Louisiana is the place that you call home,” Campbell said. “If you’re anything like me, a degree from this fine flagship university, or any of this great states’ universities is a fixture of the future you have planned for yourself. For many of our state’s lawmakers, it’s already a fixture on their walls. Louisiana students want to attend Louisiana a school to share an alma mater with the generation before them.”
Louisiana governor, John Bel Edwards, also attended.
“It’s important that the legislature do its job over the next couple of days...That’s why being here is important,” Edwards said. “Having your voices heard is critically important.”
He closed his speech by saying students need to talk with their legislators and let them know where they’re coming from, or else the schools represented on the shirts of the attendees might be where they end up eventually.