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Golden Band From Tiger Land drum major Daniel Wendt watches and waits for the baton to come down during the pregame show before the first half of LSU's football game against Auburn Saturday Oct. 14, 2017, in Baton Rouge, La.. LSU won 27-23.

ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO BY BILL FEIG

Timing is everything, but once again Louisiana government is out of sync with the rest of the planet.

In the real world, soon-to-be college students are deciding where to seek a degree.

It's one of the most important decisions a young student can make. That means in seeking students, universities ought to be able to put a firm offer on the table as early as possible.

But that reality is lost in the alternate universe of the State Capitol. LSU is losing top students to other states because of delays in funding decisions on the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students.

Playing defense is the way LSU President F. King Alexander described it.

The TOPS aid for tuition is fully funded for the current school year but was cut by the Legislature last year. Alexander said the renewed funding was welcome, but it didn't come soon enough.

As a practical matter, Alexander told the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge, students and families need to know funding levels earlier in the year, not in the spring when the Legislature typically acts.

He said LSU "took a hit" on luring some top-flight students to campus because they got offers from other schools in January and February, before this year's TOPS funding was decided by the Legislature and Gov. John Bel Edwards.

"Our students and parents are held hostage until mid-June," Alexander said. "Let's get TOPS settled and get it settled early."

We have long argued that TOPS should be changed, by raising over time the modest academic requirements for the tuition vouchers. But if we're going to do it, shouldn't we do it on a calendar that reflects the realities of recruitment?

Louisiana was one of the leaders in the nation in cutting funding for universities during the two terms of former Gov. Bobby Jindal. That put us behind in the nationwide competition for talented students whose brainpower should fuel the economy of our state in the future.

Today, because of budget battles between Edwards and the Republican-led Legislature, funding remains a last-minute decision that does, in fact, sometimes run well into June.

That is a problem, even if Edwards and lawmakers do deserve credit this year for stopping the bleeding of college budgets.

In the real world, a state proud of its universities — particularly LSU, its most nationally prestigious research institution — would fund the campuses so that TOPS commitments can be made in competition with colleges in other states.

That's not the world we're in.