Changing TOPS isn’t legislative priority

The American Press

<p class="p1">A number of bills dealing with the TOPS scholarship program have been filed during the current legislative session, and none have made it completely through the lawmaking process. Whether any will seems questionable at this point.</p><p class="p3">One measure calling for repayment of the award under certain circumstances cleared the House Education Committee, but is awaiting action in the House Appropriations Committee. Another creating the TOPS Income Fund hasn’t been heard by the Appropriations Committee.</p><p class="p3">The House Education Committee hasn’t heard a measure creating a system on how to make the awards when there is insufficient funding. The House killed a TOPS bill setting up a TOPS Transfer Award at two post secondary education levels. The author didn’t bring up a second TOPS measure.</p><p class="p3">A Senate bill providing for a rebate for TOPS recipients who complete a baccalaureate degree in three years never left the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee. The same is true for a measure dedicating excess gaming revenues to the TOPS program that never got out of the Senate Finance Committee.</p><p class="p3">The Senate approved a TOPS Second Chance Award for students who didn’t qualify for TOPS after finishing high school but scored at least a 17 on the ACT test. It is still in the House Education Committee.</p><p class="p3">Senators also approved a TOPS-Tech 2Plus2 Award for community college students who plan to attend a four-year institution. It is also awaiting action in the House Education Committee.</p><p class="p3">The Senate Education Committee with a 4-3 vote rejected a measure limiting the tuition money available to lower-performing students. It provided for a flat $4,000 annual payment. Higher-performing students would have had increased payments.</p><p class="p3">Funding for TOPS scholarships became a problem two years ago when the awards were reduced with parents and students having to pay the difference in tuition. The program was fully funded for the current fiscal year.</p><p class="p3">The proposed budget for fiscal year 2018-19 that begins July 1 fully funded TOPS, but the appropriation was reduced by 20 percent by the full House to provide funds for other programs. The budget bill is awaiting action in the Senate, and it is expected efforts will be made to restore TOPS to full funding.</p>