Save TOPS for those it was intended to serve
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In 1989, when the original Louisiana Taylor Plan became law, the program was implemented with an income cap so that students who would otherwise be unable to attend college could finally do so upon meeting defined academic requirements.
In the years since, the income cap was removed and all Louisiana students were made eligible for financial awards based on their academic performance. As the numbers of the participants in the program have risen, the funds available to students has not. In fact, the Louisiana legislature has reduced TOPS funding in order to balance the state's budget. For the Spring 2017 semester, Louisiana students recieved just 41.8 percent of the total award promised to them.
Proposed changes to the program have included raising test scores and grade point average requirements. Those changes, however, do not serve the best interests of the students most in need. From 2005 to 2014 the number of students receiving TOPS assistance from households earning $100,000 or more increased from 28 percent to 41 percent. That is not what Patrick Taylor intended.
According to a report by Tulane University's Cowen Institute, even the slightest changes to the program have dramatic impacts on African-American students. A one-point increase in the ACT requirement would reduce African-American eligibility statewide by 36 percent. Increasing the required GPA by .25 points would result in a 21 percent decrease in eligibility for African-American students.
The fact of the matter is that TOPS recipients graduate college at higher rates than other students, and that is incredibly important for African-Americans who are often first generation college students.
Financial hardship is the biggest deterrent to students trying to complete their degrees. TOPS eases that burden and allows more students to leave college with a diploma in hand, rather than a promise unfulfilled.
TOPS reform is needed, but not at the expense of those who need it most. DIllard University asks you to sign this petition urging our governor and our legislature to protect TOPS and spare it from any further cuts or structural changes that would limit access to higher education for African-American students.
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