September/October NewsLine Articles

LOSFA Goes On-line with Website Debut

On August 26, 1997, LOSFA went worldwide with the on-line debut of our new website located at The site was developed internally by the Information Systems Division, with input provided by all operational and administrative areas of the agency.

In carrying out its mission to provide resources to Louisiana residents for the pursuit of postsecondary education, LOSFA serves many diverse groups, including students, parents, schools, lenders, financial aid administrators, guidance counselors and other educators. LOSFA’s website is designed to provide assistance and information about financial aid for all these groups and is structured around five categories of information: Financial Aid, Scholarships and Grants, the START Saving Program, the Loan Programs, and a general Information Center. The site also features a table of contents and a "Financial Aid Quickfinder."

Designed primarily to assist high school students, the Financial Aid pages offer an introduction to and overview of the various types of aid, including federal, state, campus-based, and private sources of funds. Answers to such basic questions as Where Can I Get Financial Aid? and How Do I Apply for Financial Aid? are also included.

The Scholarship/Grant link is sure to be a popular area of the site, because it offers access to all the latest information about Louisiana’s new Tuition Opportunity Program for Students - TOPS.

The Loan Programs pages provide comprehensive information about the Federal Family Education Loan Programs (FFELP) administered by LOSFA. Different links to this page provide information to students about loan repayment options, deferments and forbearances, and ways to avoid the consequences of default. Website visitors with defaulted loans can learn how to reinstate their loan eligibility or pull their loans out of default via the rehabilitation process.

The final section, an Information Center, offers mailing addresses, the most recent issues of Newsline and links to pages containing school and lender updates, useful Internet links, frequently requested forms, and information on the Trailblazer Program.

While some sections of the site are still under construction, new pages are being brought on-line almost daily. Future plans include the introduction of new areas designed specifically for nonstudent users containing more technical information required by guidance counselors, lenders, servicers, and financial aid administrators. Also on the horizon are direct links to other sites including FAFSA Express, a federal website on which students can complete their initial aid application electronically, and to Fund Finders, which would allow users to search the net for access to information about additional scholarship sources.

"It will never be finished," remarks Mathilde Rivera, Project Leader assigned to create the LOSFA website last May. "We will always be adding new information to keep users abreast of the latest changes and new programs relating to all aspects of student financial aid." Rivera says that in addition to continuing to add new links, the next big step will be the development of download capabilities from the site. "It’s a living thing," she says, "...a work in progress."

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News and Updates

LASFAC Advisory Committee met on Friday, September 19. Topics discussed included: development of performance evaluation mechanisms for student charges/costs, including tuition rates and financial aid (discussion led by Dr. Larry Tremblay, Board of Regents); discussion and recommendations regarding timing of the LOSFA Guidance Counselor Workshops and LASFAA's contributions in support of the workshops (see article, pg. 6); review of the 1998-99 FAFSA draft; comments on progress and performance of loan guarantee operations; discussion and recommendations regarding the proposed processing scenario for TOPS; comments on possible elimination of some data elements on the 1999-2000 FAFSA.

As of October 1, the Student Tuition Assistance and Revenue Trust, or START Saving Program, has enrolled 175 new accounts, with $159,689 in the START fund.

The enticements of Louisiana's new Tuition Opportunity Program for Students, or TOPS, has generated nearly 20,000 phone calls to LOSFA since the program was passed by the legislature in late June. TOPS information brochures have been circulated statewide.

The Louisiana Student Financial Aid Handbook, also known as the Blue Book, is at the printer and will be available after November 11. Call Customer Services at 1-800-529-5626, ext. 1012.

Software Problem Corrected: CSS PowerFaids recently had problems creating a subsidized/unsubsidized file that could be imported into WhizKid. This problem has been corrected with PowerFaids version 2.35. USA Group Guarantee Services, LOSFA’s software provider, has successfully received imported PowerFaids files, creating a combined subsidized and unsubsidized application.

UNIPAC Service Corporation’s website,, now includes UNILINK. UNILINK provides schools the ability to look at their borrower-specific demographic and loan information and print detailed and summary delinquency reports. The school completes a contract with UNIPAC to establish this access. If you have any questions, call UNIPAC at (303) 696-5418, or E-mail to

The September 19, 1997, Federal Register provided the notice of deadline dates for schools to use designated electronic processes in order to meet administrative capability requirements for participation in the Student Financial Assistance Programs authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. If you did not receive a copy, call Customer Services at 1-800-259-2656, ext. 1012.

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NSLDS SSCR Processing Changes Continue

In August, 1997, the U.S. Department of Education distributed Dear Colleague Letter GEN 97-9 which informed schools about its continuing efforts to implement the Student Status Confirmation Report (SSCR) process of the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). It reiterated the Department’s policy that all institutions participating in Title IV student aid programs must participate in the NSLDS SSCR function.

The Department is entering a new phase of SSCR implementation in which it will (1) acknowledge and reward schools which have already completed their transition to processing SSCRs via the NSLDS, (2) assist those schools which have made progress toward complying but which have not completed the change, and (3) begin to take enforcement action against schools which have not responded to the Department’s initiatives.

Based upon the school’s level of participation as described above, schools will begin receiving the following letters:

A Successful Completion Letter will be sent to schools which have had at least 90% of the student records on its roster successfully retrieved, completed and returned. It also relieves the school of its responsibility to process SSCR rosters sent by guaranty agencies. These schools will begin to receive SSCRs from NSLDS according to the schedule they set when they registered with NSLDS through TIV WAN. They will also be expected to complete and return the electronic rosters to the NSLDS within 30 days after they are placed in the school’s TIV WAN mailbox.

An Unsuccessful Completion Letter will be sent to schools which have not successfully completed and returned the roster placed in their TIV WAN mailboxes with at least a 90% success rate. These schools must continue to process SSCRs sent to them by guaranty agencies and also continue to try to successfully complete the NSLDS SSCR roster sent to its TIV WAN mailbox. After the NSLDS generates a new SSCR roster according to the schedule set by the school, the school will be unable to return rosters generated earlier. This letter also informs the school that if it cannot successfully return the NSLDS SSCR roster within the regulatory 30-day period, it may be subject to enforcement action, including fines or other administrative sanctions.

Schools which have not signed up with TIV WAN or designated a third-party servicer to process their electronic SSCR rosters will receive a Non-Participating Letter. It will be addressed to the school’s president or CEO and will describe the enforcement actions which the Department may take against the school, including the imposition of a fine, or a limitation, suspension, or termination action.

The DCL also described the content of a series of three Overdue Letters which it will use in its compliance monitoring process. If a school does not return an SSCR within the allotted time frame, it will receive one or more of these letters, which are intended to remind the school of its processing obligation. The third letter, which is sent to the president or CEO of a school that is more than 28 days late in returning its SSCR roster, is a final demand. It informs the school that its failure to return the roster will be referred to the Administrative Actions and Appeals Division with a request for initiation of an administrative action. Such action could include the imposition of a fine, or a limitation, suspension, or termination action which could affect the school’s continued participation in Title IV programs.

Questions about the NSLDS SSCR process should be referred to the NSLDS Customer Service Center at (800) 999-8219. The TIV WAN Customer Service Center, (800) 615-1189, should be contacted for information about registration with TIV WAN.

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ED Offers Alternatives to Federal Direct Consolidation Loans

The U.S. Department of Education is experiencing temporary processing delays for applicants for Federal Direct Consolidation Loans. The Department is sending to those who inquire and to borrowers who submit an application after September 1, 1997, a letter explaining the current status of USDE processing and offering them possible alternatives to Direct Loan consolidation. One of these alternatives is for borrowers to request an FFELP consolidation loan by contacting one of their FFELP loan holders. The letter includes a fact sheet that describes the differences between the Direct Loan and FFELP consolidation programs. The Department has requested that the FFELP program assist these borrowers who contact us regarding the possibility of consolidating their loans into the FFELP program.

The Department has authorized FFELP lenders to grant an administrative forbearance to borrowers who contact them, in writing, by phone, or in person, and state that they are experiencing a hardship because they are waiting, but unable, to consolidate their loan/s into the Federal Direct Consolidation Loan program. For delinquent borrowers, the forbearance can be granted retroactive to the beginning of the delinquency period. The end date of this specific forbearance is the date the loan is consolidated. The borrower’s written or phone request, noted by the lender in the borrower’s file or record, will serve as sufficient documentation for granting the administrative forbearance.

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Reporting Changes on Participation Application

Dear Colleague Letter GEN-97-6, dated August, 1997, informs institutions how to report changes to the information provided on the Application for Approval to Participate in Federal Student Financial Aid Programs. ED Form E40-34P requires that information be updated as changes occur. The application is available on ED’s Web page at:


In instances where the change involves a substantial modification to the institution's program or structure, such as changes involving its accrediting agency, state authorizing agency, or institutional structure, the appropriate question on the application must be completed and required supporting documentation must be submitted.

In some instances, ED may then direct the school to submit a full application. For all substantial changes, written approval from ED is required before the financial aid office is authorized to disburse funds.

Other substantial changes requiring ED approval before implementation include adding educational programs or non-degree programs outside the scope of current approval, changing from or to clock or credit hours, adding a location, adding a federal student financial aid program, and, in the case of for-profit institutions only, changing the type of ownership or the ownership itself.  

In other instances, such as a change in the name of the institution, or the CEO, president, chancellor, or chief fiscal officer, the applicant is required only to notify ED of the change. This update is done by completing the appropriate question on the application and, in some cases, providing supporting documentation.  

Other less-substantial changes the officer may have to report include changing the financial officer, the principal or other location, third-party servicers that deal with federal student financial aid, board of directors (but NOT trustees), and changes in postsecondary authorization, degree authorization, program equivalence, program criteria, and U.S. administrative and/or recruitment offices.  

Attachment A of the DCL offers additional information on reporting proposed changes to institution-wide accreditation, and Attachment B provides specific case management team contacts.

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Due Diligence Technical Correction Pending

In a recent letter to the National Council of Higher Education Loan Programs (NCHELP), the Department of Education (ED) revealed a typographical error contained in the changes to the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) due diligence regulations that became effective July 1, 1997. In 34 CFR 682.411(d), when referencing the four collection letters required during the 16-180 day window, ED inadvertently used the singular in the sentence that begins "The notice or collection letter sent during this time period..." A technical correction is pending to modify this sentence so that it will refer to "letters" instead of "letter." Therefore, all four letters required during this period of due diligence must contain information regarding deferment, forbearance, income-sensitive repayment, loan consolidation (including Direct Loan consolidation), and other available options that could help the borrower avoid default. 

ED states that this correction reflects the original intent of the new regulations because it is important for lenders to provide consistent information early enough in the delinquency cycle to prevent default. It is important to note that this regulation does not dictate the exact text lenders must use to inform a delinquent borrower of the default avoidance options. Lenders should continue to develop collection letters that are progressively more demanding as the borrower becomes more delinquent. In addition, all letters must now consistently contain the default avoidance options information. 

LOSFA encourages lenders and servicers to submit their due diligence letters to the Compliance Section for review. Letters should be mailed to the attention of Susan McManus, Lender Specialist, at LOSFA, P. O. Box 91202, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-9202.

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Legal and Policy Section

In the last year, LOSFA’s Legal and Policy Section has expanded not only in size but also in the scope of its duties as the important "right arm" of the Executive Division. This busy section is responsible for analyzing and interpreting federal and state legislation, rules and regulations; developing and disseminating agency policies; representing the agency in all bankruptcy and other legal proceedings; writing and negotiating all agency contracts and participation agreements; and providing legal advice in all situations which may involve judicial action, such as personnel matters or administrative wage garnishments.

The Section is headed by Chole Rackley, Legal Counsel, who has been with LOSFA since 1992. In addition to directing the Section’s many activities, she also serves as legal adviser to LOSFA’s governing commissions, LASFAC and LATTA, and serves on the Program Regulations Committee of the National Council of Higher Education Loan Programs (NCHELP). Also active in the NCHELP Lawyer’s Caucus, her involvement at the national level helps keep the agency knowledgeable and proactive on the forefront of legislative and regulatory initiatives in the financial aid industry.

New to the Section and the agency is Stephanie Knight, Deputy Legal Counsel. Knight is responsible for overseeing bankruptcy proceedings, which have grown considerably in recent years to over 5,000 accounts. She is assisted in her efforts by Mary Brown, Bankruptcy Specialist, and a student worker, Aimie Chapman, who handle the mountains of bankruptcy documents, including proofs of claim.

Kathy Mascaro has served as Policy Officer since she joined LOSFA in 1990. She reviews, analyzes and interprets changes to state and federal laws and regulations and coordinates with other staff regarding the operational aspects of the changes. Like Rackley, she is active in the student loan industry on a national level. She served three two-year terms on the NCHELP Program Operations Committee, and is currently a busy member of the Policy Committee of the Common Manual. As such, Mascaro works closely with eleven other guarantor representatives to meet the challenge of updating the manual accurately and promptly.

Bonnie Lavergne is the Administrative Secretary who assists the Legal and Policy staff with keeping track of meeting and work schedules, overseeing the heavy flow of documents in and out of the section, and handling various adminstrative duties.

Because of increased responsibilities brought on by the addition of the TOPS and START Saving Programs, the increase in loan volume, especially Consolidation Loans, and the rising numbers of personal and institutional bankruptcies, Rackley expects the section to continue to grow. The strategic plan calls for adding a paralegal to the staff in SFY 98-99.

"We look forward to the anticipated growth of the agency and our section and expect to continue our prompt and efficient support of LOSFA programs and activities," says Rackley.

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LOSFA Guidance Counselor Workships Scheduled for December

The annual LOSFA Guidance Counselor Workshops will be held in December. The earlier-than-usual date is in response to numerous requests from counselors and continued high interest in the new Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS). The Workshops will again be held at selected sites across the state, with the goal to inform counselors about all aspects of student financial assistance.

Counselors, lenders and financial aid administrators will receive additional information and registration forms in early November. Please complete and return the forms to LOSFA as soon as possible. Once again, some sessions will be concurrent, with separate classes for new counselors and more experienced counselors.

If you would like more information, contact the LOSFA Customer Services Division at 1-800-259-5626, ext. 1012.

All workshops will begin at 8:30 a.m. and conclude at 12:30 p.m. Dates and locations for the 1997 workshops are:

Wednesday, December 3rd.
Lake Charles McNeese State University -  Burton Business  Center Conference Room

Monday, December 8th.
Metairie Holiday Inn Veterans

Tuesday, December 9th.
Lafayette Best Western Hotel Acadiana

Wednesday, December 10th.
Alexandria Hampton Inn - Convention Center

Thursday, December 11th.
Shreveport Ramada Inn

Friday, December 12th.
Monroe Holiday Inn - Civic Center

Monday, December 15th.
Baton Rouge Radisson Hotel

Topics covered will include:

State Scholarship, Grant and Savings Programs:
The most current information available about the Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS), START Saving Program, SSIG Grants, and Rockefeller Scholarships

FAFSA Overview / Papers in the Mail
An overview of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, What is a SAR? What does an award letter mean? What to do next?

How to...? The Basics of Financial Aid
Designed for counselors who need the basics

Professional Judgment: What Is It and When Do Schools Use It?
Presented by college Financial Aid Administrators

Technological Advances in Student Aid
Untangling the Web: using the Internet to access the LOSFA website, FAFSA Express and other online financial aid information sources

Trailblazer Update
Announcements, Questions & Answers

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Common Manual Update

Common Claim Initiative
The Common Manual Governing Board approved the first portion of the Common Claim Initiative (CCI) to standardize the preclaim, claim and supplemental claim processes for guarantors, lenders and servicers. The Preclaim Request Form, instructions, and related policy changes were approved and will be effective for preclaim assistance requests filed by the lender on or after September 1, 1999. The policy also requires lenders to begin providing certain required information on the preclaim request for loans first disbursed on or after September 1, 1998.

In addition, the Board agreed to adopt the Preclaim Edit Table dated July 31, 1997, as a guide to be used in conjunction with the Preclaim Request Form and instructions. The Preclaim Edit Table suggests procedures and edits lenders and guarantors can use to process information submitted on the Preclaim Request Form.

The Committee continues to work with the CCI Workgroup to develop proposals for the claim portion of the CCI. The CCI Workgroup includes representatives from LOSFA's claim staff.

July 1, 1997 Common Manual Updates
Schools and lenders should have received their July 1, 1997 Common Manual updates. Note that this update is not an entire reprint of the manual; only selected chapters and pages were revised.

Common Manual Annual Updates
The Governing Board has approved a change in the timing of the updates to the manual from semiannual to annual. The update will be published at least once a year by September 1. As usual, LOSFA will continue to distribute common bulletin language to keep our schools and lenders informed of changes in Common Manual policy until the next update is published.

Guarantors Agree to Change in Consolidation Reporting Requirements
The policy regarding lender reporting of consolidation loans to the guarantor has been changed to allow the guarantor to take corrective action (including the imposition of interest penalties) if the lender fails to report the consolidation loan within 60 days. Lenders will also be granted an additional 60 days from the date the guarantor rejects the application (plus five days mail time) to provide additional or corrected information if there is a data discrepancy. However, repeated or intentional non-compliance (including failure to reconcile) may result in the withdrawal of the loan guarantee. The change is effective for consolidation loans made by the lender on or after September 18, 1997.

This change resulted from negotiations between guarantors, lenders and servicers, and should provide more flexibility in the correction of reported data and in the imposition of penalties for reporting violations.

Policy Committee Membership Changes
Jacki Fairbairn/Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation, will assume the role of Chair of the Committee effective November 1, at the same time six new members will begin their terms. Kathy Mascaro of LOSFA continues to serve her two-year term through October 31, 1998.

Common Manual Session Planned at NCHELP Conference
Representatives from the Policy Committee, Logistics & Information Committee and the Governing Board will present a "Common Manual Update" session during the NCHELP Training Conference in Memphis, Tennessee on November 16-19. Jacki Fairbairn/GLHEC will provide information about the Policy Committee, the policy proposal process, providing effective comments to proposals, and an update about current projects underway at the Committee.

Electronic Common Manual
The July version of the Common Manual will be included on the NCHELP CD-ROM when it is published this fall. In addition, a disk version of the Common Manual will be available in Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 formats. A Macintosh version of the Electronic Common Manual is available upon request. Macintosh users with CD-ROM may access the electronic Common Manual with the NCHELP CD-ROM.

To request a copy of any of these materials, contact Customer Services at 1-800-259-2656, ext. 1012.

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Guarantors Adopt Policy on use of Comon Manual

LOSFA and its fellow guarantors recently adopted a policy to make it easy to use the Common Manual. The new policy allows schools, lenders, secondary markets, servicers, and associations within the higher education and student loan communities, to use, duplicate, or reprint material in the Common Manual without having to obtain permission — provided their purpose is to supply information to their clients. 

The only condition on such use is that they identify the Common Manual as their information source. Parties not directly affiliated with higher education and/or student loans may also duplicate or reproduce the Common Manual but must contact LOSFA first.

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"START" Public Service Announcements Begin Airing Statewide

A series of three 30-second television and three 30-second radio public service announcements promoting participation in the START Saving Program began airing statewide during the last week of September.

The PSAs were created and produced by Sides and Associates, the Lafayette-based advertising agency selected last summer following a review of proposals from several Louisiana advertising agencies responding to a request from the START Saving Program. The commercials were shot on 16mm film by the production company of Robert Berning and Associates of New Orleans, under the supervision of Sides' personnel.

Two of the commercials will rotate only during the annual START open enrollment period, July 1 to November 1. They are designed to attract parents and grandparents to open accounts for their school-age children. The third commercial, which features a family with a newborn baby, will run year-round because it is targeted to encourage the enrollment of children under one year of age for whom accounts can be opened at any time.

This PSA is also tagged as being co-sponsored by the Louisiana Tuition Trust Authority and the Louisiana Hospital Association (LHA). The LHA is participating as a promotional partner to assist in disseminating START Saving Program information.

In addition to co-sponsoring the public service announcement, the LHA is including START Saving Program brochures and applications in newborn information packets, which it distributes to new parents in hospitals throughout the state.

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USA Group Guarantee Services, LOSFA's software provider, has created a separate utility for WhizKid that enables schools to convert EDExpress packaging data into CommonLine format loan applications.  

The benefit of the utility is that it allows the school to take data from the EDExpress’ package module and convert it to CommonLine Loan applications, which can then be imported into WhizKid for FFELP loans. If this new utility is not used, the only type of loan that can be created from the EDExpress package module is a direct loan.  

The EDExpress to CommonLine Application Conversion Utility can be downloaded through the USA Group FTP server. Customers having questions about the download, installation or use of this utility, should contact Electronic Services at 1-800-348-4606 or send an E-mail to

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TOPS Commonly Asked Questions

1.)  What is TOPS?
Louisiana's Tuition Opportunity Program for Students, commonly called the TOPS Program, is a comprehensive program of state scholarships and is one of the most innovative and progressive student assistance programs in the nation! TOPS has four components: the Opportunity Award, the Performance Award, the Honors Award and the Teacher Award. Each component has specific eligibility criteria, award amounts and continuation criteria. Refer to the attached table for specific program requirements.

2.)   Who is eligible for TOPS awards?
TOPS awards are available to Louisiana high school graduates who are residents of this state as defined by the administering agency, who meet specific eligibility and selection criteria. Additionally, students who completed a state-approved home study program and score in the upper five percent in the state on the National Merit Examination are eligible for the Performance Award as long as they meet all other eligibility criteria, except graduating in the top 5 % of a graduating class.

All undergraduate students intending to teach in an elementary or secondary school in the state are eligible to apply for the TOPS Teacher Award this year, the 1997-98 academic year. Students who graduated from high school prior to August 15, 1996, are ineligible to apply for the TOPS Opportunity, Performance and Honors Awards. Students who graduated from August 15, 1996 through August 15, 1997, are eligible to apply for the TOPS Opportunity and Honors Awards to be first awarded during the 1998-99 academic year.

A special application deadline has been established for >97 high school graduates to apply for the Opportunity Award for funding during the 1998-99 academic year. See the following two questions and the enclosed table for the special application deadlines.

3.)   When will TOPS awards be made?
The TOPS Opportunity, Performance and Honors Awards will first be made during the 1998-99 academic year. Although 1997 high school graduates are eligible to apply for TOPS, financial assistance will not be awarded for the Opportunity, Performance and Honors Awards until the beginning of school year 1998-99. The TOPS Teacher Award is available during the 1997-98 school year; however, awardees will not receive their awards until spring 1998.

4.)  How do I apply for a TOPS award?
To apply for a TOPS award, students must annually complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or renewal FAFSA, whichever is applicable to the individual student. FAFSA applications are available at high schools, college and university financial aid offices as well as directly from this office, the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance.

5.)   What are the deadlines for applying for a TOPS award?
For the current 1997-98 academic year, special application periods and deadlines have been established for the TOPS Opportunity Award and the TOPS Teacher Award.

The special application period for the TOPS Opportunity Award is intended to permit students who will not be first-time freshmen in academic year 1998-99 to establish their eligibility for the award during the current year; although, funding will not be provided for the current year. Students who graduated from an approved high school on or after August 15, 1996, and through June 1997, who meet all of the eligibility criteria and enroll in an eligible Louisiana school during the 1998-99 academic year, must submit the FAFSA, School Year 1997-98, by December 15, 1997. Students who have previously submitted a 1997-98 FAFSA, will be considered and should not resubmit the form.

Students who will be college undergraduates during the 1997-98 academic year, who are pursuing a program which leads to regular certification as a teacher, may apply for the TOPS Teacher Award this year by submitting the FAFSA, School Year 1997-98, by November 1, 1997. Students who have previously submitted a 1997-98 FAFSA will be considered and should not resubmit the form.

All applicants for the 1998-99 academic year, must complete the FAFSA, School Year 1998-99, between January 1, 1998 and June 1, 1998. Once awarded under TOPS, students must file the annual FAFSA form to continue in the program.

6.)   What are the American College Testing (ACT) composite score requirements for the TOPS awards?
The minimum ACT score is different for each of the four TOPS' components. The score required for the Opportunity Award is variable depending upon the state's prior year average, rounded, but never less than 19. The minimum scores required are depicted on the tri-fold brochure. The ACT test must be taken and scores received by the date of high school graduation.

7.)  What if a student has more than one ACT or an SAT score?
The highest equivalent score of any test the student has taken prior to high school graduation is used to determine eligibility for TOPS awards. ACT scores are transmitted electronically to the administering agency by American College Testing. If a student prefers his SAT score to be used instead of the ACT, he must forward his SAT score report to the administering agency.

8.)  What if I do not earn 2 credits in the same foreign language by the time I graduate from high school?
You are ineligible for the TOPS Opportunity, Honors and Teacher Awards, but if you rank in the top 5 % of your graduating class and meet other academic requirements, you would be eligible for the TOPS Performance Award. For Performance Awards, the core curriculum requirement does not become effective until the high school graduating class of 2001.

The 16.5 units college preparatory curriculum is mandated by Louisiana law. There are no substitutions provided for the two units in the same foreign language. However, any core unit may be waived upon certification from the school that the course or courses were not available to the student at the high school attended.

9.)   Is Applied Algebra or Integrated Algebra credited as Algebra I.
No, at this time the statutory mandates do not provide for any substitutions for Algebra I and II.

10.)  I applied earlier this year for the Louisiana Tuition Assistance Plan (TAP), but was ineligible because I missed the state aid deadline. Will I be considered for a TOPS award?
Yes, if you previously submitted a 1997-98 FAFSA and meet both the initial and continuing eligibility requirements for the particular TOPS award.

11.)  What if I am eligible for both an Opportunity and Performance Award?
You are permitted only one of the awards and must accept that award which has the highest continuation standards. In this example, you must accept the Performance Award.

12.)   If I graduated in May, 1997, and am attending school out-of-state for the 1997 fall term, can I receive my TOPS award in the fall of 1998?
You would not be eligible for the Opportunity Award because it requires students enrolling as first-time students to enroll at an eligible Louisiana institution. You would be eligible for either the Performance or Honors Award, whichever is applicable, as long as you had a cumulative college grade point average of at least a 3.00 on a 4.00 scale and met the other eligibility criteria. If you were selected for the competitively awarded Teacher Award and turned it down because you attended an out-of-state school, you would have to reapply for the program for the following year and may or may not be selected based upon your merit score compared to that of other applicants.

13. How do you obtain my high school grade point average, class rank and courses completed?
High School officials must verify all academic requirements other than ACT scores. Students are not responsible for providing academic information, other than SAT scores, to the administering agency.

14. What if I receive the Performance or Honors Award in 1998 but don't meet the 3.0 grade point average (GPA) required for continuation, can I qualify for the Opportunity Award if my GPA meets the requirement of that award?
No. You must remain in the program under which you are first awarded and continue to meet the standards for that award.

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Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS)
How and When to Apply for a TOPS Award

To apply and to continue in the program, you must annually submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or Renewal

FAFSA, whichever is applicable. FAFSA's are available from your high school counselor or college financial aid office. Depending upon the date of your high school graduation and college enrollment, the deadline by which you must submit the FAFSA is depicted in the following table: 

TOPS Component




Graduated High School prior to 8/15/96.
Attends college in
1997-98 at an eligible LA school

Graduated High School 8/15/96 thru 8/15/97



Graduated High School
after 8/15/97

Not enrolled in college in 1997-98

Attends college in 1997-98 at an out-of-state  school

Attends college in 1997-98 at an eligible LA school

Opportunity Award


Not Eligible

Submit 1998-99 FAFSA 1/1/98 thru 6/1/98 and the annual FAFSA thereafter


Not Eligible

Submit 1997-98 FAFSA  prior to 12/15/97 and the annual FAFSA thereafter

Submit that version of FAFSA which corresponds to the year you plan to enroll in a postsecondary school and the annual FAFSA thereafter

Performance Award


Not Eligible

Submit 1998-99 FAFSA  1/1/98 thru 6/1/98  and the annual FAFSA thereafter

Submit 1998-99 FAFSA  1 /1/98 thru 6/1/98 and the annual FAFSA thereafter

Submit 1998-99 FAFSA  1/1/98 thru 6/1/98 and the annual FAFSA thereafter

Submit that version of FAFSA which corresponds to the year you plan to enroll in a postsecondary school and the annual FAFSA thereafter


Honors Award




Not Eligible

Submit 1998-99 FAFSA 1/1/98 thru 6/1/98 and the annual FAFSA thereafter

Submit 1998-99 FAFSA 1/1/98 thru 6/1/98 and the annual FAFSA thereafter

Submit 1998-99 FAFSA  1/1/98 thru 6/1/98 and the annual   FAFSA thereafter

Submit that version of FAFSA which corresponds to the year you plan to enroll in a postsecondary school and the annual FAFSA thereafter

Teacher Award

Any undergraduate,  Submit 
1997-98 FAFSA by 11/1/97 and the annual FAFSA thereafter


1998-99 FAFSA 1/1/98 thru 6/1/98
and the annual FAFSA thereafter

1998-99 FAFSA 1/1/98 thru 6/1/98
and the annual FAFSA thereafter

1998-99 FAFSA 1/1/98 thru 6/1/98
and the annual FAFSA thereafter

Submit that version of FAFSA which corresponds to the year you plan to enroll in a postsecondary school and the annual FAFSA thereafter

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