All this talk about budget deficits, billions of dollars, and the possibility that the TOPS award my son has worked so hard for may disappear has had my anxiety level at migraine-producing levels all week. I'm a firm believer that knowledge is power, so I started doing some research into what defines a middle class family in Louisiana.

The fact is that TOPS pays the tuition, and sometimes more, for students who qualify based on academic performance and their composite score on the ACT. The student must attend a school in the state and maintain certain academic benchmarks to continue receiving the award for a prescribed period of time. The TOPS program has helped many students from middle income families attend college without having to take out as many loans.

What's interesting is that, according to Business Insider, middle class families today cannot afford what they could 50 years ago. They can't save for retirement, take vacations, or save for emergencies like their grandparents did. A large portion of what is considered middle class income goes to maintaining their households, leaving relatively little for savings. While "setting up a college fund for children" is not on this particular list, it's easy to see how that particular task would be burdensome and why TOPS is so valuable to this population. Federal grants may not be available to families who fall above a certain income level, and many of these families are in the middle income bracket.

You may be surprised to find out that you actually fall into the middle income bracket at all. Did you know that, according to Census Bureau data from 2013 data published in Business Insider, someone who earns just over $29,000 a year is considered to be in the middle class?

The income parameters for middle class differs from state to state.