BATON ROUGE, La. — Gov. Bobby Jindal said he’ll oppose any efforts to limit grants in the state’s free college tuition program called TOPS, a recommendation backed by a higher education study panel last week.
The Governance Commission suggested a restructuring of TOPS to give all students a flat grant amount, capped at the same level for everyone, rather than tied to the cost of tuition at an individual school.
“We remain opposed to any efforts to cap TOPS. We think it is an important program that has been very successful,” Jindal said Wednesday.
Under the idea supported by the Governance Commission, lawmakers could set TOPS awards at two levels, for example, one at community colleges and another for four-year schools, with additional stipends continuing for those higher performing students.
Panel members said that “decoupling”’ would give the state more ability to control the costs of TOPS, formally the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, and could give some students money to cover costs beyond tuition, like books and student fees.
The commission said TOPS awards could be adjusted annually by the Consumer Price Index or some other inflationary measure.
The proposal would need legislative approval, and similar bills have been rejected repeatedly by lawmakers and resisted by Jindal.
Jindal was much warmer to other ideas offered by the study panel, including a proposal that would give the Board of Regents more power over the four individual university system boards and the state dollars allocated to them.
“I actually saw their work on governance to be very consistent with what we’ve supported before,” Jindal said.
The commission, which included lawmakers, higher education officials and business leaders, made 21 suggestions in its report to lawmakers, most of which would need legislative approval to be enacted.