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UPDATE: UNO, Northwestern cover TOPS gaps; UL, LSU can't - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

UPDATE: UNO, Northwestern cover TOPS gaps; UL, LSU can't

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TOPS TOPS

Northwestern State University has joined UNO in promising to cover the shortfall for student who have TOPS scholarships.

The Louisiana Legislature rejected Gov. John Bel Edwards' solutions to balance the budget, and instead opted to cut TOPS. The legislature decided that the first cut would be minor - 7 percent - but the cut for next semester will be nearly 60 percent. 

"The prospect for any additional money to fill the hole in the TOPS money is just not going to happen," said Edwards.

On Tuesday, the University of New Orleans announced it would cover the tuition costs for students who have received the TOPS scholarship this spring, even though the state cut funding for the programs. 

"I think that's got to be a shift in our thinking at the state level. Not to be selfish, but we have to go after everybody else's money first and especially if the Feds put it on the table," said UNO President, Dr. John Nicklow. 

On Wednesday, Northwestern announced it would do the same thing.  Both schools said they first are working with students to get all the federal grant money they can. Whatever portion of the tuition bill is left, those schools will cover it. 

At UNO, 1,582 student received TOPS awards this semester, and 58 percent of their TOPS awards amounts to about $2.8 million.

At NSU, 2,159 student received TOPS awards this semester, and 58 percent of their TOPS awards amounts to about $3.1 million.

LSU and UL can't afford to do that. LSU has the largest number of TOPS awarded students, with 14,086 receiving them this semester; 58 percent of their awards amounts to more than $31.9 million. 

At UL, 6,963 students received TOPS awards this semester, and 58 percent of their TOPS awards amounts to more than $11.4 million. 

LSU is offering to work with students to help them identify and apply for Pell grants and other federal student aid. LSU, which has a deferred-payment plan for tuition, is waiving fees on those plans for TOPS students. LSU students can call 225.578.3103 or visit lsu.edu/tops.

UL students should call the financial aid office at (337) 482-6506.

"FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, there you can be considered for federal Pell Grants, student loans, supplemental grants and also jobs, work study jobs on campus. We began to tell students to do that, just to explore and see which options would be available to you," said UL Vice President, Dr. DeWayne Bowie.

SLCC has only about 291 students receiving TOPS awards, and 58 percent of those payments amounts to about $272,000. A spokeswoman for SLCC said Wednesday that administrators there are still looking at the situation and would have an announcement later. 

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