Click to watch my interview on WDSU with Farrah Reyna.
The state's budget crisis could put an end to the TOPS scholarship program for college students in the future.
Kemberly Washington is a certified public accountant and financial adviser who was a TOPS recipient years ago. But after Gov. John Bel Edwards' dire warning about the state's historic budget deficit, many students may not be so lucky.
"People my age may not be able to pay for college because a lot of people may not make it creditwise or may not be able to afford it familywise. It will be very unfortunate for a lot of people to not be able to go to college just because the state won’t help them out," said Everett Fontenot, a student at the University of New Orleans.
Since the future of the TOPS scholarship program is unknown, Washington is encouraging students and parents to think of other ways to pay for college.
"So if your child is already in college definitely you want to look for scholarships, but if you have a younger child you want to look at college savings plans such as the 529 plan," she said.
Washington said the 529 plan is a great way to grow your money tax-free. The money can be used for tuition, fees, computers, transportation fees, student loan repayments and may cover room and board. She said if you have younger children, it's a great way to start saving now for college.
"With the 529 plan, another great thing is that many states will also offer state tax deductions. Here in Louisiana, they will offer the tax deduction and match a small percent," she said.
If you're headed to college now and it's too late to open a 529 plan, she said student loans may be a good option. Washington also tells students to be careful when accepting a loan for college. There are many different types of subsidize and unsubsidized student loans.
"Subsidize loans means that interest will be taken care of while you're in college, however, if you have the unsubsidized loan, you will be responsible for paying the interest that you incurred throughout college," she said.
Washington recommends students look for federal student loans because usually they have better repayment options.
“But again be careful. Ask questions as far as what's going to be the repayment term at the end. Also determine exactly how much you will borrow because of course the more that you borrow, the more that you will have to pay back. Be sure to figure out your game plan before you take out a student loan," she said.
There are many scholarships to check out that often go unused. Washington recommends visiting these websites:
More financial information can be found on Washington's website.