Governor John Bel Edwards signed Proclamation Number 41 JBE 2020 to ensure high school seniors and current post-secondary students are able to meet requirements to be eligible for the state’s merit-based scholarship, the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) or continue eligibility.
TOPS provide a portion of tuition for students enrolled at an eligible Louisiana institution.
The TOPS Award provides assistance to over 54, 000 Louisiana students each year. The Governor’s Proclamation takes decisive action aimed at addressing concerns students and families have about their ability to qualify for and maintain the award.
Prior to COVID-19, 2020 graduates would have needed at least a 20 on their ACT by April, and a Core Curriculum GPA of at least a 2.50 to qualify for the Opportunity award. The cancellation of the April ACT exam due to COVID-19 caused growing concern for many high school seniors.
The governor’s order suspends the April ACT deadline. Students will now have until September 30th to receive a qualifying score, without penalty. However, students must still earn a qualifying ACT score and meet the TOPS Core Curriculum GPA requirement.
The order also suspends the requirement that a home study student must have begun a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved home study program no later than the end of their 10th grade year. This would allow students to begin home study at any time during their junior or senior year, a change necessary given the statewide move to remote learning.
In addition, the order also addresses concerns of JumpStart students who were unable to complete nine JumpStart credits due to cancellation of courses. The order waives this requirement if a student’s school waives the requirement for graduation purposes.
For post-secondary students, the proclamation suspends the continuing eligibility requirements by suspending continuous enrollment, academic year earned hours, and GPA requirements for the 2019-2020 academic year. This applies to: 1) students who were enrolled full-time as of the 14th class day and who were enrolled as of the March 13th declaration of emergency, 2) students who were studying abroad and had to return home due to the COVID outbreak where they were studying, and 3) students who were scheduled to be enrolled full-time in the spring quarter at Louisiana Tech University.
The order also suspends the deadline that requires a student to achieve a specified GPA to have his award reinstated after a suspension for not meeting the cumulative grade point average requirement. For example, if a student’s award is suspended for not making a 2.50, the student would typically have two years to increase their GPA. However, the suspension of this requirement for the spring semester of 2020 would allow students to have until this fall to boost their GPA. Note that a “P” grade (using a pass/fail grading scale) will count as a completed course for the academic year, but it will not impact a student’s cumulative GPA. As a result, a ”P” grade will not help a student to come off suspension. If a student receives an “F” in a course graded on a pass/fail basis, the “F” will have a negative impact on the student’s cumulative GPA.
“We applaud Governor Edwards and Commissioner Kim Hunter Reed at the Louisiana Board of Regents for recognizing the stressful situation that many students are facing and providing a way for these students to continue their education without worrying about qualifying for TOPS,” said Dr. Sujuan Boutte, Executive Director at the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance.
“I am grateful to Governor John Bel Edwards for promoting continued learning while focusing on removing obstacles for our students,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed. “This proclamation eliminates many TOPS barriers that students were encountering as a result of Covid19 cancellations. Parents, students, teachers and counselors can rest assured that we are focused on making sure learning continues and progress towards graduation is achieved.”
The governor’s proclamation can be viewed here.
For more information about how COVID-19 affects TOPS for high school seniors and postsecondary students, visit our website.