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Joseph Rallo, the state’s departing higher education leader, discussed budget issues and the future of the state’s universities in an interview in his office. (Photo by Devon Sanders/LSU Manship School News Service)

Departing education leader decries funding shortfall

Joseph Rallo, the state’s departing higher education leader, said Thursday that parents and students should “feel outraged” that lawmakers failed for a second time to raise enough revenue to fully fund TOPS and avoid significant cuts at universities.
The Legislature passed a budget Monday that would slash funding for TOPS scholarships by 30 percent, or $85 million, and cut operating funds for universities, which had already declined substantially over the last decade, by $96 million.

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Tighter TOPS rules in the works

A divided House committee on Thursday approved three bills that would tighten eligibility for the popular TOPS scholarships and require some recipients to first attend two-year colleges.
One bill, by Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, would create a new scholarship tier that would channel students into community and technical colleges before allowing them to transfer to four-year universities. The House Education Committee passed the bill 7-6, with seven of the eight Republicans voting yes and all five Democrats voting no.

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Administration Commissioner Jay Dardenne, left, and State Budget Director Barry Dusse answer questions about the governor’s budget proposal on Monday. (Photo by Ashley Wolf/LSU Manship School News Service)

Governor’s budget eviscerates TOPS

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proposal to slash the TOPS college scholarship program by 80 percent has raised concerns among both Republican and Democratic legislators and the nearly 49,000 students who rely on it.
The governor proposed cutting the popular program in a doomsday budget released on Monday. Edwards made clear that he was not in favor of the cut. But he said that it might be necessary if he and Republican lawmakers could not agree on how to close a $1 billion shortfall in state revenues expected in July.

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Bill moves gambling money to TOPS

Challenging what he calls misleading promises from 20 years ago, Rep. Franklin J. Foil, R-Baton Rouge, is betting he has a way to save TOPS, the publicly funded scholarship program for Louisiana students attending college in-state.
House Bill 91, the latest on a list of measures to resuscitate TOPS, whose cost has been spiraling out of control which, in turn, has prompted awards to dwindle this academic year, dedicates a portion of riverboat gaming revenues to TOPS.

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