tops

The Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) is one of Louisiana’s crowning achievements. The scholarship has afforded countless students the ability to achieve higher education. Recently, we have had the security of this scholarship threatened. This scholarship is flawed, but it’s something we can polish to serve as an example for other states and the federal government.

TOPS as we know it today came about in 1997 when Gov. Mike Foster signed ACT 1375 and ACT 287. The laws changed how the previous Taylor Plan would be given out. The newly renovated program lifted the income cap and changed the core curriculum from 17.5 to 16.5 units. The program would undergo changes but this is when the scholarship we see to day started to have its footing.

The program came under threat in 2016 when our deficit and debt spiraled out of control. It wasn’t until Gov. John Bel Edwards was able to get the situation under control and actually create a surplus in our state.

As the scholarship stands today, it covers about 22.7% of the cost of attendance. This makes a sizable dent in the cost but leaves more to be accounted for. Most students are forced to pay the remaining cost through loans or personal finance. This leads to debt buildup within our generation; with the student debt total toppling $1.5 trillion it leaves thousands scared of what the economic impact might be.

As students, we are incredibly lucky to have TOPS to help us with the cost of attendance.

Louisiana is one of the few states that offers a program of this magnitude. The execution of the plan is not up to par with what it could accomplish.

It is estimated that 16.2% lose their TOPS award during the first year of college. This is lost money that is could be spent to cover students who are attentive to their GPA.

The solution I propose is that everyone be required to pay for their first year of college, through their own wealth or loans. Once you have retained the GPA required to get TOPS your next three years will be paid for, as long as you maintain that GPA. After you graduate, you will get a check mailed to you as reimbursement of your first year. This insures that the people who are receiving this scholarship understand the course load and drive it takes to keep it up, while safeguarding against wasting tax dollars on students who will go on to lose TOPS.

TOPS is one of the reasons this article got written today, and why a lot of us have the ability to attend the University. TOPS is a reason why many students in Louisiana decide to say here. It is so beneficial, but it can be so much more. It needs to be something we know is not going to go away and is safeguarded for generations to come.

Grant Wilkinson is a 20-year-old computer science junior from Vinton, Louisiana.

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