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Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS)
The latest information on the Louisiana Tuition Opportunity Program for Students is available on the TOPS web pages maintained by the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance, P.O. Box 91202, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-9202, 1-800-259-5626, ext. 1012. Students can check their TOPS eligibility on line (if you get a certificate error, please continue on to the site).
The Louisiana Tuition Opportunity Program for Students provides three different university scholarship opportunities, depending on the student's high school record and performance on the American College Test (ACT). All of the awards require that students be Louisiana residents. Recipients must complete a core curriculum of courses in high school.
All awards cover four years of college or eight semesters. The awards exempt students from paying tuition. The exemption does not cover LSUE's technology fee or the athletic fee. Some awards include a cash stipend. There are no income limits on who can qualify. Students must use the scholarship by the first semester following the first anniversary of their high school graduation.
The program requires that students complete at least 24 credit hours each academic year and also sets minimum grade averages that students must maintain in college. A student who transfers to another Louisiana university can continue to receive the scholarship. Since TOPS covers tuition and some fees, LSUE students who receive TOPS awards can also be considered for LSUE Scholarships.
In addition to the regular academic TOPS awards, LSUE students are eligible to receive the TOPS Tech Award if they are enrolled in an applied science program (see the description of the award below).
To apply for any of the TOPS awards, students should submit the version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that corresponds to the year they plan to enroll in college. For example, students should submit the 2002-2003 version for school year 2002-2003. The state deadline is published in FAFSA. For 2002, LOSFA states in its publications that the FAFSA should be received by May 1 for priority consideration and, to avoid penalties, must be received by the final state deadline of July 1.
Students should visit LOSFA's TOPS web pages to review the requirements for the TOPS awards.
Three general college scholarship programs are offered through TOPS.
In addition, students enrolled in occupational programs are eligible to receive the TOPS Tech Award. To qualify, students need a minimum 2.5 high school average on core courses (the core differs somewhat from the academic TOPS award) and a minimum 17 ACT composite or a 20 or higher ACT composite. Students at LSUE can qualify if they are enrolled in applied science programs: 2-year associate degrees offered in computer information technology, fire science, management, and office information systems and 1-year certificates offered in arson investigation, fire science technology, and office practices and procedures.
College students who are receiving the TOPS Performance Award or the Honors Award can switch to the benefits available under the Opportunity Award if they fail to earn the cumulative grade average required for the Performance or Honors Award but they have maintained the minimum average to qualify for the Opportunity Award.
All of the awards require that students be Louisiana residents (the student or the parents must have resided in Louisiana during the 24 months prior to high school graduation).
Children whose parents are on active military duty can qualify if the parents claim Louisiana as their home state of record and if they filed Louisiana state income tax returns for the two years prior to their dependent child's high school graduation. Children of Louisiana residents who graduated from out-of-state schools can qualify so long as the school is approved in the state where it is located. Students who completed an approved home study program can qualify. (If they previously attended a public or private high school, they must have begun their home study program no later than the end of the tenth grade and must have been in good standing at the time they withdrew from school.) Students in these three groups will qualify for TOPS based on scoring 3 points above the ACT score required under normal eligibility standards. Grade averages and curricula are not considered in determining whether students from these groups qualify.