A bill that could put a cap on TOPS awards, preventing the scholarships from increasing as tuition grows, advanced out of a House committee Wednesday morning and could have just one more hurdle at the Capitol.
If the bill escapes the House without amendment, it will head to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk. He has indicated he plans to sign the bill into law.
Senate Bill 174, sponsored by Mandeville Senator Jack Donahue, a Republican, locks in TOPS awards at the 2016-2017 school year level. Currently, the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students scholarships increase along with tuition, to ensure students who are eligible get full tuition coverage.
Supporters say the effort would help rein in the ballooning costs of the program to the state.
If universities and colleges increase their tuition in future years, students who receive TOPS would be required to pay for a slice of their own tuition for the first time in the program’s existence, if SB 174 successfully passes.
Future increases in awards would require a vote of the Legislature.
Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, who handled the bill for Donahue, told the House Education Committee the bill is essentially the same as one passed by the Legislature last year and vetoed by former Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Appel emphasized that the bill is not a bid to cap TOPS, but to allow lawmakers more input on whether the aid should be raised.
“We will establish a baseline,” he said. “We also have to take TOPS off auto pilot.”
James Callier, executive director of the Taylor Foundation, said the legislation aids parents by stabilizing annual TOPS funding and will allow state officials to put more emphasis on academics.
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