TOPS standards could be raised in effort to fund program
BATON ROUGE – In an effort to fully fund the TOPS program, state lawmakers will consider raising the standards, meaning fewer students will qualify.
The TOPS program saw significant cuts in 2016 and that could continue this year with Governor John Bel Edwards' proposed state budget.
For students like LSU Junior Kayla Green, it has been tough.
"By the time I became a junior, since it was deducted, I had to get off my meal plan, then I had to get a job to pay to eat," Green said.
State Representative Franklin Foil has a solution to get the program fully funded, that is if students can still qualify.
"It is the purpose of the bill to make the program more affordable so all the kids that apply can get fully funded for the TOPS program," Foil said.
Foil wants to raise the program's standards. In Foil's proposed bill, students would need a high school GPA of 3.0 for the standard scholarship and currently it is 2.5. For the performance scholarship, the requirement would increase to 3.25 instead of 3.0. Additionally, the honor scholarship would increase from 3.0 to 3.5.
Higher standards means less students qualify and would drive the cost of the program down.
"So it will make it not as expensive by cutting down the amount of kids that are eligible, but also the purpose of TOPS is to make it for the best and brightest, so I believe raising the standard to 3.0 is a reasonable increase to keep the programs integrity in place," Foil said.
If the proposed bill passes, the changes to the program would begin in the fall with the incoming class of 2021.
"It raises the bar. It makes TOPS a more prestigious thing. It's something you want to strive for, so in a way I think it will motivate people," Michael Austin, LSU freshman, said.
Austin said that several of his peers were not able to attend college following the program's previous cuts.
"It's such a big part of paying for it, so they just couldn't afford it after that, had to take a year off and get a job," Austin said.
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