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College Beyond Guest Blog at NSNO: What TOPS Cuts Mean for New Orleans Students

This year, Louisiana cut funding for TOPS, the statewide college scholarship fund. This effects our students and families in important, often disproportionate ways.

As part of our advocacy efforts on behalf of our students, College Beyond is a member of the growing Louisiana College Access Coalition, which has come together in support of preserving TOPS funding.

This week, coalition member New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) invited Executive Director Paris Woods to guest blog about the impact TOPS cuts have for New Orleans students.

Paris writes, “The Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) provides full-tuition scholarships to students who meet set academic benchmarks in high school. Originally founded to help low-income students afford college, the program quickly expanded to serve students from any socioeconomic background. Today, 41% of TOPS recipients are from families with annual incomes of $100,000 or more. Given the rising costs of the program and dramatic budget shortfalls, the legislature voted to reduce TOPS funding by 30% with most of the cuts going into effect this spring.

These reductions will hit hard for low-income students. Consider that in 2016, the maximum Pell grant is $5,815 while the typical public college cost of attendance, including tuition, fees, room, and board, is nearly $16,000. LSU has the highest graduation rate in Louisiana and costs in-state students $22,000 a year to attend. These costs nearly put college out-of-reach for the 39% of young people in Orleans parish who live below the poverty line.”

Tight budgets mean tough decisions. In the case of TOPS, we believe Louisiana should prioritize funding to low-income students to continue to support equitable college access for all its youth.

As Paris concludes, “In an ideal world, we could fully fund the TOPS program. If financial constraints persist, however, a tiered system that prioritizes students from low-income backgrounds will provide the most equitable access to college for students who have otherwise earned admission and simply need financial assistance to attend.”

Read the full post here. Many thanks to NSNO for amplifying this important message.

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