Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Theory, Policy, and Practice

Document Type



The Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) is a state-funded, merit-based scholarship codified into Louisiana state law in 1997. More than $1 billion in awards have been distributed since the program’s inception. By 2006, eligibility for TOPS required a 2.5 high school grade point average on a legislatively specified 16.5-unit college preparatory curriculum, and a minimum ACT score equivalent to the average of the prior year’s test takers. These rules were believed to promote greater academic preparedness resulting in higher college retention rates. Only recently has the six-year graduation rate for Louisiana’s public universities passed the 30% mark. Since TOPS’ eligibility requirements are intended to improve college retention, the three criteria were analyzed in a logistical regression to determine their strength of relationship to first-year retention. A socioeconomic status variable (Pell Grant eligibility) was included to account for the influence of wealth on retention. The sample consisted of more than 17,000 Louisiana first-time freshmen who began their college career in 2006. Students who entered college with TOPS were 2.825 times more likely to continue for a second year of schooling regardless of their socioeconomic status. The high school grade point average on the required courses was the greatest predictor of college retention. In addition to an explanation of results, the most current political information regarding legislative proposals about the program is provided along with policy implications within the context of Louisiana. Finally, a national listing of state-funded, merit-based scholarship programs similar to TOPS is offered.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Roland W Mitchell



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Education Commons