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TOPS uncertainty could send Louisiana college students to other states

Shelly Choppin says her daughter, Paige, did not have “a legitimate argument” for looking at universities outside Louisiana until the collapse of the special legislative session last week created new worries about TOPS.

Now, as the Manship News Service reports, the high school senior will be enrolling at Ole Miss this fall, breaking her family’s long-standing legacy at LSU. Paige’s great-grandfather, Arthur Richard Choppin, was dean of the College of Physics and Chemistry from 1944 to 1968, and an LSU chemistry building bears his name.

The possibility that TOPS will not be fully funded has become an all-too-familiar narrative for families of high school seniors trying to figure out how to pay for college. The Legislature cut TOPS awards by 30% in 2016 before finally restoring full funding last year—nearly two months after most high school seniors had to make their college choices.

But after the House failed to pass any bills that could replace some of $700 billion in revenue when a temporary increase in the state sales tax expires July 1, Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state might have to eliminate $233 million in TOPS funding and cut $25.6 million from spending on colleges if it cannot replace that revenue.

At a hearing on Tuesday, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said, “Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia are knocking down student’s doors. It’s like buzzards swarming around Louisiana,” later adding: “What are we going to tell these students that wanted to be a Tiger but can’t pay the whole freight?”

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