What is TOPS?
The Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) is a program of state scholarships for Louisiana residents. It is one of the most innovative and progressive state student assistance programs in the nation.
What if I get other scholarships as well? Can I still get TOPS?
A student can be awarded scholarships, other financial aid and TOPS up to the cost of attendance for the college or university attended. Cost of attendance can include tuition and fees, on-campus room and board (or a housing and food allowance for off-campus residents) and allowances for books, supplies, transportation, child care, costs related to a disability and miscellaneous expenses.
How do I apply for TOPS?
Fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) for the academic year that follows the year you graduate from high school. For 2018 graduates, the application for the 2018-19 college academic year will be available for free online at fafsa.ed.gov and must be filed between Oct. 1, 2017, and July 1, 2018, to receive TOPS funding for the fall semester following high school graduation. The 2018-19 FAFSA will require data from the student’s and parent’s 2016 federal income tax returns.
What if I do well on my ACT but my TOPS core GPA in high school is below a 2.5?
You will not be eligible for TOPS.
Can a student use TOPS for any postsecondary school?
No. TOPS can only be used at an “eligible institution,” defined as Louisiana’s public postsecondary schools—both two-year and four-year schools, including all campuses of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System—and regionally accredited independent (private) colleges and universities that are members of the Louisiana Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (LAICU schools are listed on page 59 of this magazine). Students attending an approved independent college or university will receive a TOPS award equal to the prior year’s average amount paid at public four-year institutions. A student may also receive TOPS to attend eligible proprietary and cosmetology schools in Louisiana.
Does it cover all of my tuition?
While TOPS is fully funded for the 2018-19 academic year, award amounts are no longer tied to tuition and/or tuition increases. The amount of funding available for TOPS is contingent upon annual appropriations by the state Legislature. If appropriations are insufficient to fully fund the program, available funds will be distributed on a pro-rata basis to qualified new and continuing recipients. TOPS Honors award recipients receive an additional $400 stipend per semester that can be applied to other qualified higher education expenses. TOPS Performance award recipients receive an additional $200 stipend per semester. Stipends for Performance and Honors recipients are also subject to appropriation, and will be pro-rated if appropriations are insufficient to fully fund all TOPS Awards.
Do I have to be full-time to keep TOPS?
Yes! Enrolling for less than the hours required to be full-time each term, or earning less than 24 hours in an academic year, or withdrawing from school during any semester or term, will cause you to lose your TOPS award. You should always check with the financial aid office at your school before dropping classes!
What grades do I have to get to maintain TOPS?
To renew your Opportunity award, maintain a cumulative 2.3 GPA after you have earned 24 hours and a cumulative 2.5 after you have earned 48 hours. Performance and Honors awards recipients must maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA at the end of each academic year. A TOPS Tech recipient must maintain a 2.5 GPA at the end of every academic year.
What happens if I drop below my assigned GPA? Have I lost TOPS for good?
If your cumulative GPA drops below the minimum requirement for renewal of your TOPS Opportunity award, your award will be suspended and you will have two years (one year for TOPS Tech) to bring your cumulative GPA up to the required level and regain your TOPS.
If your cumulative GPA drops below the required 3.0 level for renewal of your TOPS Performance or Honors award but you have met the requirement for renewal at the Opportunity award level, your award will not be suspended, but your award will drop to the Opportunity level. Once you drop to the Opportunity award, your Performance or Honors award cannot be reinstated. If your cumulative GPA drops below the minimum requirement for renewal of your TOPS Tech award, your award will be suspended, and you will have one year to bring it up to the required level and regain your TOPS Tech award.
Where can I get more information about TOPS?
TOPS is administered by the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance, a program of the Louisiana Board of Regents. For more detailed information about how to qualify for TOPS and how to keep it once you get it, visit LOSFA’s website at osfa.la.gov or send an email to LOSFA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RULES AND GUIDELINES
• Must meet citizenship and Louisiana residency requirements.
• Must enroll as a first-time, full-time student at an eligible Louisiana school by the fall semester following the first anniversary of high school graduation.
• Must file the FAFSA form annually.
• Must meet all academic and nonacademic requirements, including minimum ACT composite score of 20 (or 17 for a TOPS Tech award) and a GPA of at least 2.5 on TOPS core high school subjects.
ACT QUALIFYING SCORES FOR 2018
TOPS Tech: 17
TOPS Opportunity Award: 20
TOPS Performance Award: 23
TOPS Honors Award: 27
Beginning with high school graduates of 2021, the TOPS core grade point average required to qualify for a TOPS Performance Award will increase from 3.00 to 3.25 and from 3.00 to 3.50 for a TOPS Honors Award.
Be sure to include the ACT TOPS code 1595 or the TOPS SAT code 9019 on all test registrations. You must send your test results to the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance as well as to schools where you apply!