TOPS requires residency

November 10, 2010

Louisiana’s Taylor Opportunity Award Program (TOPS), which provides academically qualified students with state-paid tuition to college, was created in 1998 by Patrick Taylor to encourage more high school graduates to go to college and later refuel the Louisiana economy by working in state with their degrees. However, Taylor did not plan on so many students wanting to leave the state after receiving a college degree and costing the state more than it brings in.

TOPS is without doubt one of the greatest programs Louisiana has to offer students, but the benefits toward the state have slowly depleted to the point where less money is going to fund TOPS than is going out to fund so many college careers.

It is the opinion of The Tech Talk staff that while the benefits of TOPS are helping many, something must be done outside of the college atmosphere to give students a bigger incentive to stay in Louisiana. The main point of TOPS is to give in-state students the ability to go to college at a lower cost for high grades and ACT scores. Then once students graduate college, they are supposed to live in Louisiana to give back to the fund they used to go through college. However, students are leaving Louisiana after they graduate and not putting money back into the system, which causes the availability of TOPS to decrease.

This is no fault of TOPS. Louisiana does not provide enough of a service to its inhabitants. Higher education and health care are two of the most strenuous crises right now, and the addition of faulty roads and terrible job situations adds to the messy struggle with the economy. TOPS is failing simply because the money is not going back into the system. It is still in Louisiana’s constitution that when a state is in a deficit, the first to programs cut are higher education and health care. Because of the problems facing these two areas right now, allowing them to be cut even further, like they already have, will drive even more graduates away from the state.

However, it would be in terrible taste for Louisiana to cut funding for education, regardless of the number of TOPS recipients that leave the state. Louisiana students should not be refused the ability to have a college education just because of their inability to afford college, whether it is a community or four-year college.

While it is likely that students who are able to receive the benefits of TOPS are generally qualified enough to seek other scholarships for college, students should be able to rely on their state to take care of their higher education needs. It is almost a civic responsibility to go to college and therefore a civic liberty to attend college without the worry of being able to pay for it. 

Though many are not staying in the state, the money put into TOPS is still flowing at a steady rate, which is still enough to house the necessary amount of college careers, but unless something is done to further the appeal of residency in Louisiana, the steady number will continue to decrease until no more money is available for TOPS.