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La. Senate Rejects Plan to Raise Bar for College Scholarships

Lawmakers in Louisiana have decided against a proposal that would raise the academic standards needed to qualify for a popular state scholarship program.

The Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, known as TOPS, which has been around for about 20 years, pays all tuition for eligible students to attend a state university or community college. To get the award, students must graduate from high school with a 2.5 grade point average and a score of 20 (out of 36) on the ACT.

A bill in the Senate would have raised eligibility to a 2.75 GPA and a 21 on the ACT. It was an effort to contain the cost of the program, which is expected to be $250 million next budget year and by 2019 cost the state $387 million, according to an Associated Press article.

The measure was defeated 23 to 16 this week, according to the legislature's website. Prior to the vote, language was added to the bill that would have made students repay the tuition if they don't maintain their grades and course-level requirements during their freshman year of college. More than half the students who get a TOPS award lose it, the AP reports.

Other states are also struggling with similar scholarship initiatives to maintain access while reining in costs and restructuring programs so students complete college.

In 2011, Indiana increased the GPA requirement for its needs- and performance-based 21st Century Scholars Program from a 2.0 to a 2.5. It also mandated that students complete a college success course to help them with college planning and preparation.

Over the 20 years that Oklahoma has offered its Promise Scholarships, the state also has raised its standards. The state now requires a 2.5 GPA in high school and an ACT score minimum of 22. Beginning in 2012-13, students had to maintain a minimum college GPA of 2.0 for courses taken through the sophomore year and a minimum 2.5 GPA for courses taken during the junior year and thereafter. While the free tuition was first offered to students with a family income no more than $24,000, now the limit to qualify is $50,000.

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