More than 10,000 TOPS scholars have forfeited their college awards

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 28, 2001

In a January report to the legislature, the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA) disclosed that 10,817 recipients of the state’s TOPS scholarship from the high school graduating classes of 1997, 98 and 99 had forfeited their awards. Included in that number were 2,536 students whose awards had been suspended for failure to maintain the requisite grade point average. After their first year in the program, all TOPS recipients must maintain a minimum grade point average of 2.50 to remain in the program. Recipients whose awards were suspended for failure to maintain this average have up to two years to regain the minimum average and have their awards reinstated. To determine the college persistence of students whose awards had been forfeited or suspended, LOSFA compared its data with the public college enrollment data maintained by the Board of Regents. Of the 10,817 students affected, 5,944 or 55 percent remained enrolled in a public college as of the fall semester of 2000. Enrollment data for the state’s private colleges was not available for comparison, but when that data is incorporated, the percentage of students who have continued in college after loss of their awards is expected to reach 62 percent. Since January, the number of suspended awards have decreased by 93, leaving 2,443 students currently in this status. The data from the Board of Regents shows that the greater majority of these students have remained in school and, based upon the reduction, is suspended awards that has been experienced, it is evident that more students with suspended awards will be reinstated to the program, further reducing the award forfeiture rate experienced to date. The program is now in its third year of awards, covering students from the graduating classes of 1997 through 2000. With each succeeding class, the rate at which students have retained their TOPS awards has increased. Retention data for the Class of 2000 will not be available until the close of the spring semester in May of this year. Notably, none of the students in these classes were aware of the program’s requirements when they entered high school as freshmen. The first entering class of high school freshmen to be completely familiar with the standards for TOPS will not graduate until 2002. Consequently, the data currently available and relating to persistence rates may be insufficient to warrant conclusions relating to the long term impact of the program. LOSFA and the Board of Regents are taking steps to improve the flow, analysis and reporting of data, enabling performance comparisons to be made between TOPS and non-TOPS recipients as the basis for future decisions about the program.