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May 2, 2014 6:49 PM by Kari Beal

Bill could raise TOPS scholarship qualifications

The state is one step closer to raising the qualifications for the TOPS scholarship. Senate Bill 520 authored by Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, passed in the Senate Education committee late yesterday.

About 46,000 students across the state are paying their way through college with this scholarship, totaling about $117 million in tax payer money according to the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance. Proponents of the bill say the scholarship fund has become too expensive and this would help keep it under control.

Eligibility for the scholarship is based on academics and covers most tuition costs.
SB 520 would raise the qualifying ACT score from 20 to 21 and the GPA from 2.5 to 2.75.

About 17 percent of Louisiana students who graduated in 2013 and qualified for TOPS scored a 20 on their ACT. If the bill passes those students wouldn't make the cut. Carencro High School Principal worries this new bill could have a negative effect on the students in most financial need.

"As a principal we are always about rigor and kids doing better, trying to raise the standard. It does worry me a little bit about kids who perhaps just need an opportunity and TOPS was all about an opportunity for kids who couldn't afford to go to college," Carencro High School Principal Ken Roebuck said.

Although Carencro junior Cory Lafleur's ACT score of 30 would most certainly qualify under the new bill, he worries about students who wouldn't

"Not everyone has the financial access to college and they really do depend on tops scholarships, Lafleur said.

The bill heads to the senate floor next for debate.



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