Lawmakers Begin Filing Bills To Change Louisiana’s TOPS Program
While most of their attention has allegedly been focused on fixing the state's budget crisis, some Louisiana lawmakers have had their eyes focused further down the road.
While the special session that will end March 9th has been strictly for the budgeting process, the regular session of the legislature is fast approaching. One of the hot button topics in the regulars session will be the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, or TOPS.
TOPS was put into place so that deserving students would have an incentive to attend a Louisiana college or university. However, the sheer number of students who have taken advantage of the program during the state's current budget debacle have basically rendered the program a shell of what it was supposed to be.
Several lawmakers have begun the process of filing bills for the regular session that would save TOPS. There would be changes in how the program would be administrated, but deserving students would still have money available to help pay for their in-state education.
Jennings Senator Blade Morrish has filed over a dozen bills related to changes in the TOPS program.
Raising the eligibility requirements will probably not keep anyone from getting TOPS because I believe students in this state will step up to the plate.
According the story published by the Louisiana Radio Network, the eligibility requirements for students would change from a 2.5 grade point average to a 2.7 GPA. There would also be a one point jump in the required ACT score. Currently, a student becomes TOPS eligible with an ACT score of 20. If Morrish's bill became law, that score would need to be a 21.
Another proposed change in TOPS would be that the program would no longer cover 100% of a student's tuition. There would be a cap in place.
It puts a cap on TOPS, which I think we’re going to have to do, and I think that’s the bill that has the most opportunity of actually becoming law.
Another provision that is included on of Morrish's bills is a graduation requirement. The bill would make a student that failed to graduate responsible for paying by their TOPS money.
Make it a loan, and if you graduate you’ll get that loan forgiven.
Morrish suggested that this would serve as a financial and educational incentive for a student in the TOPS program to complete their degree program.