A bill that would force TOPS students who drop out or lose eligibility to repay the value of the scholarship passed the House Education committee on an 8-5 vote. The bill's author, Chalmette Representative Ray Garofalo, says TOPS costs the state 290-million dollars and it's becoming more difficult for the state to find money to pay for the taxpayer funded program.
“The recoupment of the money is just icing on the cake and give other students the opportunity hopefully to let us keep this program going for a longer period of time.”
The bill would allow the Board of Regents to determine the repayment process, which could include interest.
New Orleans Representative Joseph Bouie says the bill targets working class students who often times lose eligibility after a few years when bills start piling up.
“I don’t think it’s fair. It’s sort of like punishing you because you have to drop out and go to work because your family needs money, you can’t eat. That happens to many students, they have to work while they go to school.”
Garofalo says his bill isn’t mean spirited, it’s responsible.
“I don’t want to hurt people I just want to make sure that the students who accept this gift from the taxpayers are going to be responsible about receiving that gift.
But Carencro Representative Julie Emerson says the bill just doubles down on misery students experience after having to leave school.
“I do think it would be hard if a student got into a program their first year and realized the financial hardship that they can’t meet and has to drop out and we give them more of a financial hardship.”