The Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, commonly known as TOPS, received full funding following a Special Legislative Session in June of last year.
“I think it is of course very positive for Louisiana—definitely for our students who want to attend college here in Louisiana,” DeWayne Bowie, Ph.D., Vice President for Enrollment Management at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said.
He continued, remarking on the importance of the funding.
“That is really a big step for our state, I think, in helping our students to attain a college degree,” Bowie said.
UL Lafayette students agreed.
“I think it will do good because it’s helping provide further education for students of Louisiana,” Nova Vernon said, a junior majoring in criminal justice.
Another student echoed this sentiment, connecting his background.
“TOPS is a big part of any Louisiana student’s life because for those of us that come from smaller towns or didn’t do as well in high school but did enough for TOPS,” Austin Manucy said, a junior in the history program.
One student called attention to the status of the Louisiana school system and the benefit TOPS provides for it.
“Our school system is not the most funded system, and a lot of students are not the wealthiest, so this way a lot of our students can still go to college and have it be somewhat affordable,” Kristina Khalid-Abasi said, another junior majoring in history.
Students and staff had ideas about the sustainability of TOPS.
“I think it is something we should prioritize as a state, because we need it. A lot of students can’t afford to go to college without TOPS,” Vernon said.
She continued, voicing the concerns of most prospective Louisiana college students.
“It’s something that they preach about so hard in high school … if you get to your senior year and there’s no real funding for TOPS, all your plans are just out the window,” she said.
Other students had different ideas about TOPS, considering instead the rise in attendance and the associated cost.
“They possibly should up the requirements to get TOPS because some of it is very low. There are some students, at least that I went to school with, that got TOPS that in my opinion did not earn it,” Manucy said.
However, despite its full return, many recall the issues with TOPS during previous years.
“I remember when our funds were spent superficially, so I don’t know how long it will necessarily last here, but I hope it will last a long time,” Khalid-Abasi said.
Bowie recalls the major effects the past cut to TOPS funding had on students as well.
“I remember a couple of semesters ago when TOPS was not fully funded. That caused many students and their families a lot of financial hardship. We had some students that actually ended up not being able to return the following semester,” he said.
Regardless of past issues, it appears TOPS will continue to be a primary aspect of Louisiana academic life for the foreseeable future.
“I think the future is bright for the TOPS program,” Bowie said.