Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) Bulletin
DATE ISSUED: April 18, 2001

Louisiana High School Principals and Counselors, City and Parish School Board Presidents, School Board Superintendents, College and University, Technical College and LAICU Chancellors, Financial Aid Offices, Business Offices, Registrars and Auditors, System Governance, Board of Regents, Department of Education, Louisiana Officials, Louisiana Legislators, and Commission Members

TOPIC: Rule Change Regarding Early High School Graduates

To assure that your Scholarship and Grant Policy and Procedure Manual remains current, please record this document on your TOPS Bulletin index and retain it with your manual.

Effective this academic year (2000-2001), qualified students who graduate from high school in less than four years will be eligible to receive their TOPS award immediately upon graduation and certification. The Louisiana Student Financial Assistance Commission (LASFAC) recently repealed its rule which delayed the award of students who graduated prior to attending four years of high school. Students will now be certified based on their actual date of high school graduation. There will be two distinct groups of students affected by this rule change: 1) those who complete graduation requirements at the end of an academic year after less than four years of high school; and 2) those who complete graduation requirements in December, or mid-year, after less than four years of high school .


For students graduating in May, 2001, after less than four years of high school, their core curriculum and grade point average (GPA) shall be certified for Academic Year (AY) 2001. These graduates will be certified as you are currently certifying all four year graduates and must be added to your certification sheet or web certification. Simply process these students as you would any other graduate indicating the actual graduation date (May 2001).

Students graduating in December 2000, with less than 4 years of high school and entering a postsecondary institution immediately following graduation, (spring quarter or semester), require special manual processing. These graduates should request their high school to forward to this office an official transcript, which will be evaluated by our Program Review Division. These students, once determined eligible by having an appropriate FAFSA and ACT on file, shall be paid retroactively for the Spring 2001 quarter or semester, through procedures already established at the post secondary institutions.


The rule change now requires the FAFSA to be filed in the year the student will actually graduate, not in the year in which he would have normally graduated. Beginning next year (AY 01-02), the filing deadlines for both the FAFSA and ACT, which are based upon the student's year of graduation, will apply to early graduates. If a student fails to file in the year of actual graduation, he will lose consideration for the award. Also, residency requirements are based on actual graduation date; therefore, an early graduate must also meet the 24 month residency requirement prior to the actual graduation date.

In an effort to assist early graduates of AY 2000-01 who, due to this recent rule change, may not know to file the current year FAFSA, LASFAC will allow receipt of either a 2001-2002 FAFSA, or 2002-2003 FAFSA until July 2002, without penalty. Should a student have failed to achieve a qualifying ACT score prior to graduating, special consideration will be given to allow an ACT score following his early graduation but not after June of 2001.

Please be advised that this rule only affects students who have completed graduation requirements. Students enrolled in Early Admissions Programs that will result in high school graduation are not eligible, as they are not considered graduates until culmination of their program.

We request that all school personnel help us inform all prospective early graduates about this change.

The full compilation of the TOPS rules, with all changes incorporated to date, may be viewed on our website at http://www.osfa.state.la.us.


The Louisiana Student Financial Assistance revised TOPS rules (Louisiana Administrative Code, Title 28, Part IV), to implement the above discussed change as follows:

Chapter 3. Definitions
§301. Definitions

High School Graduate – for the purposes of these rules, is defined as a student certified by award of a high school diploma to have satisfactorily completed the required units at a high school meeting the eligibility requirements of these rules or a student who has completed at least the final two years of a BESE-approved home study program and has reported such to BESE. A student who graduates at any time during an Academic Year (High School) shall be deemed to have graduated on May 31st of that year for the purpose of applying deadlines. For the purposes of determining when a student must begin postsecondary enrollment, all students that report completion of an approved home study course to BESE during an Academic year (High School) are deemed to have graduated on May 31st of that year.

Chapter 7. Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) Opportunity, performance, and Honors Awards
§703. Establishing Eligibility

A. - G.1.d. ...

2. A student who enters an Eligible College or University early admissions program prior to graduation from high school shall be considered a First-Time Freshman, as defined in §301, not earlier than the first semester following the Academic Year (High School) in which the student graduated. A student who enters an early admissions program will remain eligible for a TOPS award until the semester or term, excluding summer semesters or sessions, immediately following the first anniversary of the date that the student actually graduated.