Of the 23,290 Louisiana students who received Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) funding in Academic Year 1998-99, 6,218 (or 27.9%) failed to meet the standards required for renewal of their awards for the Fall 1999 semester. In July, the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA), the state agency that administers the scholarship program, projected a first year attrition rate of approximately 25%.
One Louisiana newspaper reported Thursday that the number of students failing to meet TOPS renewal requirements was 7,220, or 32.6% of the 23,617 who received the award last year. "That report failed to take into account that some 800 recipients graduated from college last Spring, another 213 students exhausted their years of eligibility and three others died during the year," said Jack Guinn, LOSFA’s executive director. Those 1,013 students who graduated or exhausted their eligibility were among a group of students who were "rolled into" the TOPS program last fall from two previously existing state scholarship programs, the Louisiana Honors Program and the Tuition Assistance Plan.
Of the 6,218 students who failed to meet renewal requirements, 2,562 (or 41.2%) lost their awards because they failed to earn 24 semester hours during the two semesters defined as the academic year. Another 1,407 (or 22.6%) had their awards suspended because they did not meet the grade point average required to retain their awards. "The latter group may have their awards reinstated if they remain in school full time and regain the required cumulative GPA within two years of their suspension," Guinn stated.
Another 296 prior recipients, or 4.8% of those not gaining renewal, may regain eligibility for Academic Year 2000-2001 by timely filing renewal applications prior to July 1, 2000. "This number would have been much higher if the Louisiana Student Financial Assistance Commission had not granted a one-time extension of the renewal deadline from July 1, to September 15," Guinn said. "During that 75-day period," he continued, " our office informed all affected students of the one-time deadline extension, which resulted in an additional 2,970 renewal applications. We are surveying this group to determine why they failed to renew their awards."
Yet another group of 2,353 students are candidates for renewal, pending final processing of their eligibility status. "While some of these students may achieve renewal, the majority will be determined ineligible for one of the reasons already outlined," Guinn stated.
Considering the experience of 1997 and 1998 high school graduates (excluding those students rolled into TOPS from prior scholarship programs), it is clear that students who qualify for those awards requiring above average performance in high school are achieving a dramatically higher award retention rate.
Recipients of the TOPS Opportunity Award posted the highest attrition rate. Only 64.2% of 1997 high school graduates and 63.7% of 1998 high school graduates who received Opportunity Awards last year have been renewed for Academic Year 1999-2000. To qualify for the TOPS Opportunity Award required a cumulative high school GPA of 2.50 on a 4.00 scale and an ACT score of 19 for 1997 and 1998 graduates. To retain the award, a minimum of 24 credit hours must be earned each year and a cumulative GPA of 2.30 posted at the end of the first academic year and a 2.50 each successive academic year.
Recipients of the TOPS Performance Award performed significantly better with 89.6% of 1997 high school graduates and 90.2% of 1998 high school graduates achieving renewal. To qualify for the TOPS Performance Award required a cumulative high school GPA of 3.50 on a 4.00 scale and an ACT score of 23. To retain the award, a minimum of 24 credit hours must be earned each year and a cumulative GPA of 3.00 posted at the end of the each academic year. Recipients of the Performance Award who fall short of the 3.00 GPA requirement may be renewed as recipients of the Opportunity Award, provided they achieved the GPA required for continuation of that award.
Recipients of the TOPS Honors Award achieved the greatest success with 93.6% of 1997 high school graduates and 93% of 1998 high school graduates earning renewal. To qualify for the TOPS Honors Award requires a cumulative high school GPA of 3.50 on a 4.00 scale and an ACT score of 27. To retain the award, a minimum of 24 credit hours must be earned each year and a cumulative GPA of 3.00 posted at the end of the each academic year. Recipients of the Honors Award who fall short of the 3.00 GPA requirement may also be renewed as recipients of the Opportunity Award, provided they achieved the GPA required for continuation of that award.