We have good news! The Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (also referred to as the Taylor Plan or TOPS) went under legislative review this May to reform the program and change funding. To the benefit of Louisiana’s college students, the state Legislature voted to fully fund TOPS.
The state has tried to reform TOPS requirements before. The basic requirements for TOPS include maintaining a 2.5 GPA, achieving an ACT score of at least 20, and following a specific curriculum of classes during high school. For now, the requirements have not changed. While students have to shoulder the mountain of pressure that comes with college applications, they can take advantage of TOPS’ readily attainable requirements.
TOPS is available to students with Louisiana residency who attend in-state colleges. The program makes attending an in-state school more affordable. TOPS funding comes directly from the state, which is why the Louisiana Legislature’s decision in June to fully fund the program was vital. The 2017–2018 TOPS tuition amounts vary for each college. The tuition amounts for LSU can be found at http://lsu.edu/financialaid/tops_updates.php, and a list of all universities accepting TOPS can be found at http://www.osfa.la.gov/MainSitePDFs/TOPS_Payment_Amounts.pdf.
A differentiating factor between the thousands of college scholarships out there is the type of qualifications the awards are based on. Common qualification types are merit-based, need-based, and a combination of both. Put simply, a merit-based scholarship is based on grades and test scores, while a need-based scholarship is based on the income of the student’s family. TOPS is a merit-based scholarship. Financial need is not taken into consideration. Previously, TOPS was both merit- and need-based. In the past, TOPS placed a restrictive income cap on applicants, but it was removed in 1997 by former Governor Mike Foster so students could become eligible for awards based solely on their academic performance.
The awards are distributed at three different levels based on GPA and ACT score. The three different TOPS scholarships, in increasing order of aid amounts, are the TOPS Opportunity Award, the TOPS Performance Award, and the TOPS Honors Award. There’s a fourth award option, the TOPS Tech Award, for students who enroll full time in a technical school. To receive the highest award (the TOPS Honors Award), high school students much achieve a 3.0 GPA, an ACT score of 27, and complete 19 core units of the TOPS curriculum. Other requirements include Louisiana residency and full-time enrollment as a college freshman within one year of graduating high school. The award will be first applied to tuition, and the remaining amount can be used toward any other expenses, such as books, meal plans, and housing. Some awards also come with an additional annual stipend of up to $800/academic year.
TOPS even covers graduate school tuition in some cases. TOPS covers up to eight semesters of college. If you complete your undergraduate degree in less than eight semesters and enroll in graduate school no later than the fall semester following the one-year anniversary of completion of your undergraduate degree and are in good academic standing with the program, you can receive funding from the program for the remaining semesters of eligibility.
To apply for TOPS, students need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It should be filled out annually by students desiring to apply for any type of federal aid, whether it’s a scholarship, student loan, or grant.
FAFSA requires the following:
- Your Social Security number
- Your parents’ Social Security numbers (if you’re a dependent)
- Your driver’s license
- Your parents’ federal tax information or tax returns
For students needing more information on how to apply for TOPS scholarships, there are many helpful online resources, such as the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance. This website provides detailed information about what TOPS offers and how to apply. Fill out the FAFSA, then find out if your school requires any additional forms. It’s as easy as that!
Now that you know all about TOPS, apply and share the knowledge! Share the information with your friends or parents by directing them to this blog post, or share this TOPS quick facts table with them.
Other college expenses
TOPS financial aid is great because not only does it help students afford tuition, but it can also be used to assist with another large expense of going to college — student housing. In 2017, average off-campus living costs for Louisiana college students was estimated to be $13,447, according to IPEDS!
Students and their parents know that the cost of college includes much more than tuition. Textbooks, meal plans, transportation, and housing all come at an extra cost. With the help of state-funded financial aid programs like TOPS, students have a better chance of affording student housing. TOPS helps with non-tuition-related costs by providing a stipend in addition to tuition assistance. The TOPS Honors Award comes with a $400/semester stipend, and the TOPS Performance Award comes with a $200/semester stipend.
The biggest way to save money on housing is to split costs with a roommate. At The Lodges at 777, we offer floor plans with up to five bedrooms. The schedule of a college student is so busy that it’s rare that all roommates will be home at the same time. You won’t have to worry about being cramped, especially with our spacious floor plans. The cost per person is lower when split between multiple people, and it also helps to have other people to split bills with.
The last cost to keep in mind when planning where to live while attending college is the leasing and application fee. Some apartment leasing offices will charge you to apply for housing, but The Lodges at 777 offers a free online leasing process. Now that you know about some great money-saving opportunities like TOPS, we’re here to help you ensure that you can still secure the best housing in Baton Rouge in a floor plan of your choice. Start our express, online leasing process today at https://thelodges777.com/application.