The future of TOPS uncertain amid the state’s budget crisis

The future of TOPS uncertain amid the state’s budget crisis from Mark Robinson on Vimeo.

Students flood the halls here at Riverside Academy in St. James Parish, many unaware of the state’s financial crisis. On February 11, the Louisiana government ceased funding the TOPS scholarship program due to the uncertainty of the state’s budget. And though payments for TOPS have resumed, it has a major effect on local high schools.

“It’s going to put more stress on teachers to make sure students get the scores they need,” said Perry DeCarlo, Riverside principal.

Teachers and administrators at Riverside are concerned that any cuts or increases to the requirement to get the TOPS scholarship may deter many students from getting a college education.

Students at high schools like Riverside Academy are heavily reliant on the TOPS scholarship program to get them through college. However, with state legislatures dealing with the current Louisiana budget crisis, that program could be in jeopardy in the future.

“You have your top 10, 15 that are going to graduate with a 28-30 on the ACT. That’s 40-something kids who will have to find another way to get a post secondary education,” said DeCarlo.

Seniors at Riverside have already taken notice of what could happen without the program in place.

“A lot of student loans, I guess. That’s the only thing I can do if I want to finish school,” said Noah Gravois, Riverside’s senior class president.

Counselors say that even with the uncertainty surrounding the future of TOPS, the school is still equipped to help students find the right career path following high school.

“We have students who dual enroll at Vo- Tech across the street if they’re interested in working as a P-Tech as an operator or instrumentation or welding. And so we encourage them to go and talk to Vo-Tech and dual enroll their junior or senior year in high school, and get an early jump if they can,” said Carrie Turnball, the school counselor.

But with lawmakers still in a special session, for now it’s just a waiting game.