Three groups of 2001 high school graduates who were recently made eligible to apply for Louisiana's popular Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) awards have been granted an application deadline extension.
The Louisiana Student Financial Assistance Commission (LASFAC) last week extended to November 1, 2001, the deadline for filing the TOPS application, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), for 2001 high school graduates who became eligible to apply for the TOPS Tech or TOPS Opportunity award as a result of action taken during the recently completed legislative session.
Only students who fall into one of the three following categories may utilize the application deadline extension:
• Students who received a composite ACT score (prior to high school graduation) of 17 or 18 and who met all other eligibility requirements for the TOPS Tech award, including completion of the TOPS or TOPS Tech core curriculum
• Students who graduated (in 2001) from certain approved high schools outside the United States and its territories who met the TOPS alternate eligibility composite ACT score requirement for an Opportunity or Tech award (three points higher than the minimum qualifying score required of in-state graduates, currently composite scores of 23 and 20 respectively)
• Students who completed a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved home study program while living outside the United States and its territories and who met the TOPS alternate eligibility composite ACT score requirement for an Opportunity or Tech award (currently composite scores of 23 and 20 respectively)
The legislative Acts enabling these groups of students to apply for TOPS awards became law on June 29, 2001. The normal deadline for receipt of applications without penalty was July 1, 2001.
"We are simply trying to assist those students who were made eligible to apply, but would not have had adequate notice of the changes in program requirements to have applied," said Jack L. Guinn, executive director of the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA). LOSFA is the state agency charged with administering the TOPS program.
Act 1144 of the 2001 Louisiana Legislature provided new eligibility criteria for the TOPS Tech award for students graduating in the 2000-2001 school year and thereafter. These new criteria included lowering the minimum required composite ACT score from 19 to 17 and providing a new TOPS Tech core curriculum. High school graduates of 2001 and 2002 may qualify using either the original or the new Tech core curriculum. High school graduates of 2003 and thereafter must follow the new TOPS Tech core curriculum in order to qualify. Specific course options for either TOPS Tech core curriculum may be obtained from high school guidance counselors or by calling LOSFA at 1-800-259-5626, extension 1012.
Act 1192 of the 2001 Louisiana Legislature established that students who graduate from an approved high school (one that is accredited by a regional accrediting organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education) located outside of the United States or who complete a BESE-approved home study program while residing out-of-country may qualify for a TOPS Opportunity Award with an ACT score of 23 or higher or a TOPS Tech Award with an ACT score of 20 or higher. Parent(s) of dependent students must be actively engaged in work or other activity on behalf of a Louisiana employer or sponsor , must have actually lived in Louisiana for at least the 24-months preceding the date the work or activity outside the U.S. began, and must have remained a Louisiana resident through the date of the student's graduation from high school or completion of a BESE-approved home study program.
2001 high school graduates who believe either of these legislative acts make them eligible for TOPS consideration must file the 2001-2002 FAFSA no later than November 1, 2001, to avoid penalty. The FAFSA may be obtained from high school guidance offices, college or university financial aid offices, or from LOSFA. In addition, the FAFSA may be filed online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov. For more information, contact LOSFA by telephone at 1-800-259-5626, extension 1012; or by e-mail at email@example.com or visit the LOSFA Web site at http://www.osfa.state.la.us.