TOPS updates with a downgrade

For the spring 2017 semester, students will receive a significant cut in their Taylor Opportunity Program for Students awards.

“What’s changing about TOPS is that students will receive less funding,” said Erin Fernandez, President of Student Government Association. “30 percent is being cut from TOPS. It’s really unfortunate, but TOPS is experiencing quite a large cut from the previous semester.”

This decision had been made earlier in the year.

“The legislature passed a budget and accompanying legislation during its regular session earlier this year that reduced the amount of money for TOPS scholarship awards,” said university President Dr. John L. Crain. “The budget was also ‘front loaded’ so that the award reductions for the fall semester would be minimized with the more significant reduction slated for the spring.”

A variety of students at the university are TOPS recipients, and now search for alternate funding.

“Southeastern is home to over 4,000 TOPS students, the third highest TOPS student enrollment in the state,” said Crain. “The reduction in TOPS funding from the state for the spring semester totals approximately $6.5 million for TOPS students at Southeastern. Since the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance, LOSFA, first announced the estimated TOPS shortfall last summer after the Legislative Session concluded, Southeastern students and their families have been preparing for the reduction and seeking other means to pay the approximate $1,700 difference in their TOPS scholarships for the spring semester.”

 

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Fernandez recommends other scholarship opportunities to help pay the difference.

“Students should prepare for this shift by continuing to work hard in school because that’s something that’s gonna help in the future,” said Fernandez. “Maybe saving more money. If you don’t currently work, looking. Seeking out other scholarships outside of the university. There are so many websites dedicated to scholarships that students may not even know about. I highly encourage everyone to use those scholarship searching services to kind of fill that gap.”

Another important alternative is ensuring students complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

“It is critical that TOPS students, and all others for that matter, have a completed FAFSA on file in order for the university’s Financial Aid staff to determine exactly what forms of aid students are eligible to receive,” said Crain. “Approximately eight percent of Southeastern’s TOPS students have not yet submitted a FAFSA for the 2016-2017 year, and the university is strongly encouraging those students to complete the financial aid application process as soon as possible. Staff members continue to work one-on-one with students who need assistance with the application or with understanding the payment options available to them.”

The university is willing to help students with the added monetary stress caused by the decrease in TOPS.

“Southeastern is focused on helping students as much as possible to ease the financial strain the reduction is causing,” said Crain. “Payment plans are available for students to help alleviate the stress of full payment up front. Students can choose to pay their spring bill in three equal installments to have extra time to get their finances in order. For some students, the first one-third payment may be made up of scholarships and other aid they are already receiving. So, there can potentially be very little out-of-pocket expense until the second or third payments.”

 
 

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