DATE: May 13, 2002

CONTACT: Gus Wales

PHONE: (225) 922-2029

FAX: (225) 922-0790

Students Can Check Their TOPS Eligibility

Beginning Monday, May 20, 2002, new applicants for the popular Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) can learn if they have qualified for an award by calling the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA) on its toll-free, automated response service number or by using a computer to access the agency's Internet Web site.

Students who are advised by these automated response services that their applications are still being processed should not be alarmed. Before LOSFA can render a decision on a first-time applicant's eligibility for TOPS, the agency must have received the student's application, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and confirmed the student's ACT score, high school cumulative grade point average and the academic courses completed in high school. Once all of these data elements have been entered into the agency's computerized system, an award decision is automatically rendered and the student is notified by formal letter and the decision can be accessed via the agency's automated telephone and computer response systems, which will be available beginning Monday, May 20. Processing of applications is continuous and award notification systems are automatically updated weekly.

Before determining the eligibility of prior recipients of an award to continue on the program, their grades and hours earned must have been reported to the administering agency by the school last attended. Prior recipients whose records are complete will also be posted and award decisions can be accessed via the same media beginning May 20.

To check if an award decision has been made, an applicant may use either of LOSFA's award notification systems, telephone or Web site, both of which will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, beginning Monday, May 20. On this opening date, only those high school graduates in the Class of 2002 whose applications were received by the priority deadline of May 1, 2002, are likely to receive a final award decision.

Because an applicant's file is visually displayed on the LOSFA Web site, students with Internet access are encouraged to use that medium whenever possible to make inquiries. To access their files, applicants must connect to LOSFA's Web site at and click on the "TOPS Portal" option. Next, click on "Student" as the access type. To sign on, the system will require applicants to enter their Social Security Number and date of birth and then click on "Look Up." The applicant's encrypted file will be displayed on a screen titled "TOPS Eligibility Results." Below this title, the student's award decision will be shown as either "Eligible" or "Ineligible." If the student is eligible, the TOPS award that the student has qualified to receive will be shown at the bottom of the screen. If the student is shown as ineligible, messages at the bottom of the screen will identify those reasons why eligibility has been denied or has not yet been determined.

The center of the screen will display all of the data relating to the student that was used in determining eligibility for a TOPS award including, among other items, high school and/or college course credits, grade point average and data from the application and the ACT.

If the applicant believes any of the data displayed on the screen is inaccurate, or if some items are blank, the student should call LOSFA's Public Information Representatives at 1-800-259-5626, extension 1012. In the Baton Rouge area, the number to call is 922-1012. Callers will be assisted between 7:45 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Online eligibility updates are posted each Monday.

Students who submitted their initial applications after the priority deadline of May 1 are likely to be informed that the determination of their eligibility status is still in progress.

Students who wish to know if an award decision has been made but who don't have access to a computer should call LOSFA's automated telephone inquiry system at 1-800-259-5626 (381-7262 in the Baton Rouge area). From the menu options first presented by the operator, press "2" which will take callers to the menu for scholarships, grants, and savings programs. By pressing option "2" again, callers will be instructed to enter their Social Security Number (SSN) followed by the pound (#) sign. An automated voice will then respond with the award decision or will advise the applicant that the application is still being processed. The caller will then be given the option to speak to a Public Information Representative for more detailed information.

High school graduates of 2002 who have not applied for TOPS are reminded that the FAFSA must be received by July 1, 2002, to be considered for an award without penalty. Initial applications received from one to sixty days after July 1, 2002, will be penalized one semester of eligibility. Initial applications received from sixty-one to 120 days after July 1, 2002, will be penalized two semesters of eligibility. Initial applications received more than 120 days after July 1, 2002, will not be considered.