Centenary College will cover full TOPS awards for Louisiana students

SHREVEPORT, LA — Centenary College has informed current and prospective Louisiana students that it will once again honor the full TOPS scholarship amounts stated in students’ award letters for the 2018-2019 academic year, regardless of the funds provided to the College by the state. Centenary is making this commitment for the third consecutive year after the Louisiana legislature failed to address TOPS funding in a recently concluded special session.

A decision about funding formulas for TOPS in 2018-2019 will likely not be made until the summer, creating widespread uncertainty for Louisiana students trying to determine whether they can afford to attend college in the state or whether they must explore other options. 56% of Centenary students hail from Louisiana, and nearly 80% of them qualify for TOPS scholarships that help fund their education at the College.

“Our students are always our first priority, and we want our Louisiana students in particular to know that - in the absence of a decision regarding support - they can count on Centenary,” says Centenary President Dr. Christopher L. Holoman. “Our commitment to fully cover TOPS awards requires prudent management of our resources, but these are steps that we willingly take to be sure that our Louisiana students get the financial support they need to pursue an education in their home state. The TOPS program is particularly important since it allows students and families to choose the college that will provide them the best education for their individual needs, whether public or private.”

Louisiana’s TOPS (Taylor Opportunity Program for Students) is a program of state-funded scholarships that benefits more than 50,000 Louisiana residents attending public, private, and community and technical colleges in the state. The program includes three award levels with increasing support for higher-achieving students. The state legislature determines the base amount for TOPS at private institutions like Centenary each year, and students who qualify for the awards can apply them to their tuition balance. In 2017-2018, Louisiana students earning a GPA of at least 2.5 and a score of at least 20 on the ACT qualified for a TOPS Opportunity Award of $5718 at Centenary. The awards increased by $400 ($6118) at the Performance level (3.0 GPA and 23 ACT) and $800 ($6518) at the Honors level (3.0 GPA and 27 ACT).

The TOPS program has been the subject of intense debate for several years as Louisiana attempts to address its structural budget deficit. The Louisiana legislature’s most recent attempt to close an estimated $994 million hole in the state budget during a two-week special session ended with no agreement on a budget, and the state constitution prevents lawmakers from considering most revenue-raising measures in regular sessions in even-numbered years. Any resolution of the latest budget crisis, including the fate of TOPS, will likely have to be debated in another special session beginning in May.

“We continue to work with legislators and advocate for our students,” says Holoman. “We encourage the Centenary community and those concerned about higher education in Louisiana to do the same.”

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