LSU officials are breathing a sigh of relief that, so far at least, spring enrollment does not appear to be affected by cuts to the state’s popular TOPS tuition program.
During last summer’s legislative session, lawmakers slashed funding to TOPS in order to help balance the state budget, though they front-loaded the program so that fall tuition would be almost fully covered while spring tuition will only be funded at 40%.
At the time, higher education officials said they were worried about the potential impact of the cuts on spring enrollment. But Jason Droddy, interim vice president for communication, says LSU was never really expecting a drastic decline.
“LSU did not expect any changes attributable to TOPS changes because students plan in years rather than semesters,” Droddy says. “Students typically have year-long apartment contracts and financial aid, and tend not to change universities in mid-year. If there were any TOPS-related enrollment shifts, it would not be expected until the start of the next academic year.”
As of Sept. 9, 31,414 students were enrolled at LSU’s Baton Rouge campus. State lawmakers will revisit the TOPS issue long before the start of the next academic year. Higher education officials are considering several changes to the program that would make it more competitive but also less costly for the state.
One option on the table would raise the hourly requirement for the scholarship from 24 credits per year to 30. The idea would be to encourage students to graduate more quickly, as TOPS only covers eight semesters.
Some lawmakers are optimistic they will be able to fully fund the program for the 2017-2018 academic year, though even if the money is found—which is iffy at this point—change will likely come to the program regardless.
LSU’s final enrollment figures for the spring semester will not be released until later this month.