TOPS eligibility bill fails - KLFY News 10

TOPS eligibility bill fails

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Lawmakers on the House Education Committee turned away a proposal to raise the eligibility standards and payment schedule for a student to receive free college tuition through the state's TOPS program. 

The panel voted 10-4 Tuesday against the measure (House Bill 1153) by Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville. Lawmakers said while they understood concerns about the price tag of TOPS, they also worried about the impact of eliminating students from the program. 

The bill would have raised the ACT score or grade point average needed to get a TOPS award, starting with high school students graduating in the 2017-18 school year. It also would have changed the payment schedule to pay 80 percent of tuition for college freshmen, 90 percent for sophomores, 100 percent for juniors and 120 percent for seniors. TOPS is estimated to cost the state $235 million next year and more than $300 million within three years as tuition costs rise. 

"We will not have a TOPS program if we don't take some sort of action to curb that," Harrison said. He added: "You can't just say that the credit card has no limit." Among the concerns, Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, said he worried the changes would disproportionately hit minority students, keeping them from getting TOPS scholarships. Gov. Bobby Jindal opposed the bill. The House Education Committee vote won't end legislative debate on tweaking TOPS, however.

A bill (Senate Bill 520) by Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, to raise the minimum grade point average and ACT score required to get a TOPS award awaits debate on the Senate floor after getting the support of the Senate Education Committee.
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