Study: TOPS should be based on needs, not brains

Study: TOPS should be based on needs, not brains

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The fate of tops is on the minds of students across Louisiana as lawmakers consider measures to overhaul the college scholarship program.

With a variety of proposals being considered, Tulane University released a new report.

"What we're looking at is not the terms of the financial effects, but how these changes would really affect students," said Tulane Policy Director Vincent Rossmeier.

If lawmakers decide to raise the minimum GPA requirements from 2.5 to 2.75, New Orleans will be greatly impacted. According to the report, 28 percent fewer students in the city would be eligible.

"It would also severely impact the students coming from private schools, which is one thing that a lot of people don't think about when they think about TOPS," Rossmeier said.

Increasing the minimum qualifying ACT by just one point would impact African-American students the most. Requiring a 21 on the ACT would mean, according to the study, 32 percent fewer African American students in New Orleans would be eligible. Statewide, the study reveals 36 percent fewer African Americans would be eligible.

"What we're really looking to do with this is just raise awareness about the issue and say that we're not advocating for any kinds of cuts, but if they have to, it should be done in a way so that the students who could least afford college are protected," Rossmeier said.

Rossmeier said if legislators must reduce the costs of TOPS, the Cowen Institute suggests making it need-based on family income.

"Right how about 40 percent of students are coming from families making $100,00 or more, and 20 percent are coming from families making $150,000 or more," Rossmeier said.

He said if only students from families with incomes of $50,000 or less were eligible, the cost of the program would be cut by two-thirds.

Another recommendation would be to create a sliding scale, where students pay what they can afford.

We won't know how much money the state has for the TOPS program until Gov. John Bel Edwards and state lawmakers finalize the budget. That should happen next month.

Copyright 2016 WVUE. All rights reserved.