LSU employees this morning began calling all 16,100 students who receive TOPS scholarships to attend classes on the Baton Rouge campus to advise them of changes made to the program during the recent legislative session and help them prepare for the future.
During the session, the popular program was on the chopping block, as lawmakers grappled with filling a massive budget shortfall that at one point earlier this year was as large as $1.2 billion. In the end, the budget passed by the Legislature funds TOPS at nearly 100% for the upcoming fall semester but only funds it at 40% for spring 2017.
“I think this is going to be tricky for us,” says LSU President F. King Alexander, who, like other university presidents around the state and Gov. John Bel Edwards, opposed “front loading” TOPS. “We have 16,100 TOPS students out of 26,000 undergraduates—by far more than any other institution in the state.”
To make sure students and their parents are up to speed on the recent developments and answer any questions, the university is launching the phone bank, which officials describe as a “customer service” initiative that is expected to continue through the middle of the month. University employees from across the campus are volunteering time to help place the calls and deliver two messages.
“We want to clear the air and explain what is going on,” Alexander says. “We also are asking them to fill out their financial aid forms by the end of July.”
Some 50% of students on the LSU A&M campus in Baton Rouge are on financial aid, and university officials say it’s important for them to know how much aid they are eligible to receive in the event that lawmakers do not find funding over the next few months to restore TOPS funding for the spring.
Alexander says the TOPS changes have not affected fall enrollment, but he says university officials are a little concerned about the spring.