Board of Regents delays proposal to increase TOPS requirements

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Students fearful they would be required to take more credit hours to keep their TOPS scholarship dollars can breathe easier - at least for now.

The La. Board of Regents decided Friday to put a proposal on hold until at least next month that would have required TOPS recipients to take 30 credit hours instead of 12.

"Consistent with a merit-based scholarship, I was supportive of the 30-hour rule," said Dr. Joe Rallo, commissioner of higher education.

Students are watching the process closely.

"Everybody has this idea of graduate in four years, but TOPS was already all set from the beginning saying we only needed 12 per semester, but it just depends on each individual basis," said Nerrie Borne, a student at the University of New Orleans.

"While I understand what the goal is on that, I think it is problematic It has a disproportionate impact on those young people, particularly those who have to work who come from backgrounds that require them to spend that kind of time working," said State Sen. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans.

Bishop said such a rule could keep some students from attending college.

"I know it will, if the federal government only requires you to take 12 hours in order to qualify for financial aid in or to be a full-time student why should we then say, well now you have to have 15," Bishop said.

LSU students who attended the Board of Regents meeting are delighted the proposal was not advanced.

"We're extremely excited and I told some of the students and they're extremely excited to hear that we're going to take a little bit more time to develop some recommendations on TOPS."

But Rallo believes it has great merit.

"Nationally we know also that students who take closer to 30 hours have a greater chance of actually finishing their degree program," he said.

Louisiana state government continues to struggle financially, and under the budget proposal released by the governor this week for the budget year that begins July 1, the TOPS program would only cover 70 percent of students' tuition.

"Yesterday the governor proposed his preliminary budget and TOPS is funded at 70 percent, we don't know quite honestly what's going to happen, so I think the board was wise in saying let's make sure we get it right, there's no need to move quickly on this thing," said Rallo.

"It's my hope that we can have a seat at the table," said a student.

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