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Message to Legislature: Don't mess with TOPS

This item originally appeared in the June 24, 2004, issue of The Tech Talk.

Tech and other colleges across the state continue to enjoy Louisiana's landmark educational breakthrough -- TOPS, or the Tuition Opportunity Program for Students.

TOPS is one of the most important tools for any student going to college in Louisiana, whether it is the students who receive the scholarship or those who benefited from TOPS and lost it, for whatever reason.

TOPS is also important because this $110 million program is funded by the taxpayers. If we look to the old adage about a community raising the children, then TOPS can be thought of as part of the community's civic duty to help create productive citizens.

However, in light of recent studies, students are not failing when it comes to keeping their TOPS.

According to a study done by the state Board of Regents, released in May, about two-thirds of the students who received TOPS keep the aid for all four years.

This only goes to help prove the students who are receiving TOPS are serious about higher education -- one they may not have received if it was not for the program.

Roughly 40,000 students receive scholarships through this program yearly and those students are more likely to stay in school than students who do not get TOPS.

Some students do lose their TOPS and the study showed most students lost TOPS because they did not meet the minimum hours required per year, not because of their grade-point average.

TOPS is as important today as it was when it began in 1998. Many of us at Tech can say we would not be here if it was not for the program.

Students from Louisiana who could not afford to attend college, but wanted to come to Tech or other in-state schools, are allowed this wonderful opportunity.

Many students in other states look at Louisiana with envy and wish their state had something vaguely similar. TOPS is proof that Louisiana can produce innovative education reforms.

Our concern is that officials tamper with TOPS too much.

One thought is to raise acceptance standards, considering that the lowest standard for ACT and GPA for the program is lower than some colleges and university requirements for acceptance. This may not be too extreme, but care should be taken.

This is a reciprocal deal: The government needs to protect the investment and students need to appreciate the TOPS opportunity.

Professors leave challenges behind

This item originally appeared in the June 24, 2004, issue of The Tech Talk.

Students and faculty are saying goodbye to five special professors, each who had at least 30 years of experience and spent the better part of their lives striving to create an even more outstanding university.

Susan Corley, an assistant professor of office administration; Edwin Pinkston, a professor of art; Ronald Thompson, a professor of chemical engineering; Ron White, an associate professor of journalism; and Glynn Ingram, an associate professor of history are leaving behind not only memories, but also a challenge to those taking their place to serve the university with the willingness and dedication they had.

Their achievements and commitment to Tech reflect the distinguished reputation of the university and its staff. It was not pure need that caused these five professors to continue to serve the university. It was the entire package: intelligent, hard-working students; willing, experienced professors; a community that cares about its college students; and the renowned status Tech has.

New professors will take the place of most of the five retiring, and they should easily realize the spaces they have to fill. Their task will not be easy, but it will be immensely rewarding. To take the place of five such faculty members and to have a home at Louisiana Tech is a privilege and an opportunity not to be taken lightly.

As we bid Corley, Pinkston, Thompson, White and Ingram farewell, we also wish them good luck and we welcome the new professors who will undoubtedly follow in their footsteps.

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