June 24, 2016
The 2016 legislative season, which entailed two special sessions and one regular session, closed yesterday, and proved to be the longest consecutive session in our state’s history. When we began this process back in February, higher education faced historic challenges as our state’s projected budget shortfall was predicted to be as high as $2 billion. But, thanks to the courage and fortitude of Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Legislature, LSU’s budget appears to be relatively unchanged from the current fiscal year. We will not have final details until next week, but we appreciate that decision-makers chose to acknowledge the important role higher education plays in the future of Louisiana by stabilizing funding for our colleges and universities.
TOPS was funded at 70.5% of its current level, meaning students will receive a smaller scholarship award than they did in 2015-16. We wish this decision had been made sooner in the year so that students and their families would have had more time to plan accordingly. As things now stand, students will receive 100% of their TOPS award for the fall semester, but only 40% of that award in the spring. We understand that any change in a student’s anticipated financial aid package can be stressful. To mitigate the situation, LSU representatives will reach out to TOPS students in the coming weeks to inform them about the changes to the program and ensure awareness of all financial aid and payment options available to our students.
What does this all mean? For 9 years, LSU’s state funding has been dramatically reduced while mandated costs increased. With the difficult decisions made by our state leaders during this legislative session, our university may be on firmer ground than we’ve seen in some time. With predictable funding, we have the opportunity to look to the future with confidence, pursuing our mission of providing exceptional educational opportunities to Louisiana students, solving the state’s largest problems, pushing the boundaries of knowledge, and sharing that information with the people we serve.
I understand that this has been a long, challenging period of time, and I thank you for your vocal support and continued loyalty and dedication to LSU.
F. King Alexander