Cost Control For TOPS Program Headed To Jindal For Decision

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Gov. Bobby Jindal will decide whether to place new spending restrictions on the TOPS free college tuition program.

         With a 28-6 vote Wednesday, the Louisiana Senate gave final legislative passage to the bill by Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville.

         The Republican governor opposed the cost-control measure, but his office hasn't said whether Jindal will strike it down.

         Asked if Jindal will veto the measure, governor's spokesman Mike Reed didn't answer directly, saying in an email: "We still have concerns with the bill."

         A decision could be caught up in ongoing budget negotiations.

         Under the bill, the TOPS tuition payment rate would be locked in at the 2015-16 level. Rather than automatic increases whenever tuition costs rise, increases to TOPS payments in later years would need separate legislative approval.

         Supporters say that will ensure Louisiana can continue to afford the program. Jindal objected because students and parents could have to pay more out of pocket for tuition.

         TOPS is slated to cost $284 million next year and is projected to continue growing. Lawmakers worry about being able to continue affording the program, particularly as colleges seek continued tuition increases to offset state financing reductions.

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