Social media: a voice for college students during budget cuts

For many students around Nicholls and every university in the state of Louisiana, the seriousness of state budget cuts was delivered through some form of social media.

When news triggered a few weeks ago about payments to students from the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) being stopped momentarily due to uncertainty surrounding the state’s budget crisis, the discussion of budget cuts and TOPS began to trend on popular social media sites such as Twitter, Snapchat, YikYak, Facebook and all local Louisiana news station websites. On the day the news was broken, Feb. 11, in the topic section of Twitter, TOPS was not only trending in the state of Louisiana but also nationwide.

Perhaps part of why TOPS, the scholarship program which covers tuition for in-state students who meet a set scholastic criteria, made such a huge stir could be due to how many college students depend on the program’s benefits. For the current school year, 49,710 students were awarded TOPS scholarships in the state.

Before the announcement of TOPS possibly being taken away from students, many students who attend schools in Louisiana may have not truly understood what cuts to education really meant. Budget cuts to some students could sound like raising tuition or professor and faculty members being laid off. The thought of TOPS being cut as a part of educational cuts, nor the topic of budget cuts period, was not a major everyday issue discussed by local social media users. It was not until money that was directly for the students being seemingly taken away did many begin to understand the seriousness just what cutting education means.

Since that Thursday, budget cuts has been a topic of discussion for every college student and many have taken to social media to get the word out about making a difference. Everyone, including the official home page of Louisiana governor John Edwards has taken to social media in efforts of getting information out state residents. Posting numbers to local legislators, setting up and participating in pep and informal rallies, and pushing the topic of how important higher education is to the state’s future has taken over many college student’s social sites.

The push for support for higher education in Louisiana is growing steadily every day, as Louisiana residents weigh out what’s next for the state’s budget crisis. The power of speech is certainly present on social media. More students are beginning to pay more attention to the future of their education and future generations to come.