Louisiana is a state with a rich, cultural history with fun and exciting towns like New Orleans, Breaux Bridge and Baton Rouge. While Louisiana can be a great state to visit as a tourist, its 4.6 million residents should enjoy the fact that they live there thanks to the college financial aid programs offered to them.

The Pelican State offers a plethora of college grants and scholarships to its residents. Some of the most influential financial aid programs include the TOPS Program, the Rockefeller State Wildlife Scholarship and the Go Grant.

The TOPS Program

The Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) has four types of subset awards within the program. Those four awards are the Opportunity Award, the Performance Award, the Honors Award and the Tech Award. All four awards have different eligibility criteria that distinguishes them from each other, but many criteria are similar.

To be eligible for any of these four awards, a student must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident,
  • Meet the TOPS Louisiana residency requirements,
  • Must enroll as a full-time, first-time college freshman by–at the latest–the first semester following the first anniversary of the student’s high school graduation, and
  • Complete 19.00 core units of TOPS core curriculum.

To renew any of these TOPS awards annually, a student must at least:

  • Complete 24 credit hours per academic year,
  • Maintain Steady Academic Progress according to the student’s institution,
  • Must be enrolled as a full-time student by the 15th day of each semester, and
  • Maintain continuous enrollment.

A student cannot regain eligibility for a TOPS award if the student is not enrolled full-time, not continuously enrolled and/or does not earn at least 24 credit hours every academic year.

To apply for any of the TOPS awards, a student must complete and file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before July 1 every year.

The TOPS program can provide students with a very broad range of financial aid amounts. To browse through what a student can earn from each program or a combination of programs, check out this handy chart from the 2020-2021 school year.

TOPS Opportunity Award

The TOPS Opportunity Award is the most common award from the TOPS Program.

To be eligible for the Opportunity Award, a student must meet all the above criteria as well as:

  • Earn a minimum ACT score (or SAT-equivalent score) of the prior academic year’s average score, but never a score less than 20; and
  • Receive a minimum 2.50 TOPS core curriculum GPA.

To renew the Opportunity Award, a student must meet all the above criteria as well as:

  • Receive a minimum 2.30 GPA at the end of the student’s first academic year (24-47 credit hours earned), and
  • Receive a minimum 2.50 GPA at the end of each of the rest of the student’s academic years (48+ credit hours earned).

A student can also regain a suspended Opportunity Award after falling out of the eligible GPA criteria if the student’s GPA is raised back to the appropriate minimum GPA within 24 months.

The amount a student receives from the Opportunity Award varies based on the school the student attends, but it can be anywhere between $2,600 to $8,850 per academic year.

TOPS Performance Award

The TOPS Performance Award has higher academic standards than the Opportunity Award.

To be eligible for the Performance Award, a student must meet all the general criteria from above as well as:

  • Earn a minimum ACT score (or SAT-equivalent score) of 23,
  • Earn a minimum 3.00 TOPS core curriculum GPA, and
  • Increase to earning a 3.25 TOPS core curriculum cumulative GPA (starting with the graduating class of 2022).

To renew the Performance Award, a student must meet all the general criteria from above as well as receive a minimum 3.00 GPA at the end of every academic year.

If a student’s cumulative GPA is less than 3.00, but is greater than 2.30 and they have earned 24-47 credit hours, the student will still be credited with the Opportunity Award. If a student’s cumulative GPA is less than 3.00, but is greater than 2.50 with 48+ credit hours earned, the student will also still be credited with the Opportunity Award.

If a student receives the Performance Award, they will earn an extra $400 annual stipend in addition to the amount they receive from the Opportunity Award.

TOPS Honors Award

The TOPS Honors Award has even higher academic standards than the previous two TOPS awards.

To be eligible for the Honors Award, a student must meet all the general criteria as well as:

  • Earn a minimum ACT score (or SAT-equivalent score) of 27,
  • Receive a minimum 3.00 TOPS core curriculum GPA, and
  • Increase to earning a 3.50 TOPS core curriculum GPA (starting with the graduating class of 2022).

To renew the Honors Award, a student must meet all the general criteria as well as receive a minimum 3.00 GPA at the end of every academic year.

If a student’s cumulative GPA is less than 3.00, but is greater than 2.30 and they have earned 24-47 credit hours, the student will still be credited with the Opportunity Award. If a student’s cumulative GPA is less than 3.00, but is greater than 2.50 with 48+ credit hours earned, the student will also still be credited with the Opportunity Award.

If a student receives the Honors Award, they will earn an additional $800 annual stipend in addition to their Performance Award and their Opportunity Award.

TOPS Tech Award

The TOPS Tech Award is very different compared to the other three TOPS awards. This award in particular was created with the sole intention of promoting a skilled workforce in Louisiana.

The program and award are offered to high school graduates who will be entering non-bachelor’s degree and/or certificate programs.

To be eligible for the Tech Award, a student must meet all the general criteria as well as:

  • Earn a minimum ACT score (or SAT-equivalent score) of 17 OR earn the Silver Level Score on ACT WorkKeys,
  • Complete 21 units that comprise the TOPS Tech Jumpstart core curriculum OR the 19 core units from the general criteria eligibility, and
  • Receive a minimum 2.50 TOPS core curriculum GPA.

There are four scenarios in which a student can use TOPS Tech Award funding:

  • Be enrolled in a technical program at a Louisiana public college or university,
  • Be enrolled in an associate degree program or shorter-term training and education program at a two-year Louisiana public college or university,
  • Be enrolled in an approved program at a four-year Louisiana public college or university that does not offer a bachelor’s degree in the program, and
  • Be enrolled in an approved program at an approved Louisiana for-profit and/or cosmetology school.

To renew the Tech Award, a student must meet all the general criteria as well as:

  • Receive a minimum cumulative 2.50 GPA at the end of each spring semester, and
  • Receive a minimum cumulative 2.00 GPA at the end of every other semester.

If a student loses the Tech Award because of GPA, they can regain their eligibility by bringing their GPA back up to 2.50 within 12 months.

The Rockefeller State Wildlife Scholarship

The Rockefeller State Wildlife Scholarship is open to both Louisiana undergraduate and graduate students who are majoring in forestry, wildlife or marine science. It is also a highly competitive award to win.

To be eligible for the scholarship, a student must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen;
  • Be a Louisiana resident for at least one year prior to July 1 of the scholarship award year;
  • Complete and submit documentary evidence as required by the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance;
  • Be enrolled as a full-time undergraduate or full-time graduate student at a public Louisiana college or university;
  • Be majoring in forestry, wildlife or marine science with the intent of getting a degree in the field; and
  • Have earned at least 60 college credit hours and have at least a cumulative 2.50 college GPA as an undergraduate student OR earn at least a cumulative 3.00 college GPA on all credits earned in graduate school as a graduate student.

To apply for the scholarship, a student must complete and submit their FAFSA no later than July 1 and complete and submit the Rockefeller State Wildlife Scholarship Application no later than July 1.

The award is renewable. An undergraduate student can receive the award three times for $2,000 annually. A graduate student can receive the award two times for $3,000 annually. Overall, a student can receive the scholarship five times for a total of $12,000 over the course of their academic career.

In order to renew the award, a student must:

  • Not have exceeded five years of receiving the scholarship (three undergrad, two graduate);
  • Earned at least 24 credit hours as a full-time undergraduate student by the end of the academic year OR earned at least 18 credit hours as a full-time graduate student by the end of the academic year;
  • Received a cumulative 2.50 GPA as an undergrad student by the end of the academic year OR received a cumulative 3.00 GPA as a graduate student by the end of the academic year;
  • Maintain continuous enrollment as a full-time student; and
  • Continue to pursue a degree in the eligible courses of study.

GO Grant

The GO Grant is a need-based award that supports nontraditional and low-to-moderate income students who need additional aid to be able to afford to attend college.

To be eligible for the grant, a student must:

  • Be a Louisiana resident,
  • Complete and submit FAFSA,
  • Receive a Federal Pell Grant,
  • Have a remaining financial need after deducting the student’s Estimated Family Contribution plus all the federal/state/school aid from the student’s cost of attendance, and
  • Be enrolled in an eligible Louisiana postsecondary institution on at least a half-time basis (at least six credit hours per semester).

The grant is a renewable reward and to be eligible to renew it, a student must:

  • Complete and file their FAFSA annually,
  • Continue to receive a Federal Pell Grant, and
  • Continue to need extra financial aid according to their FAFSA data.

A student can renew the GO Grant as much as they need throughout their academic careers.

The GO Grant award amount varies based on a student’s financial need and allocated funds, but the minimum annual award a student can receive is $300 and the maximum annual award a student can receive is $3,000.

Major Louisiana Colleges and Universities

There are many different in-state public colleges and universities Louisiana residents can choose to attend. Some of the popular schools include:

  • Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge (main campus),
  • Louisiana Tech University in Ruston,
  • McNeese State University in Lake Charles,
  • Nicholls State University in Thibodaux,
  • Northwestern State University in Natchitoches,
  • Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond,
  • Southern University in Shreveport,
  • University of Louisiana at Lafayette in Lafayette, and
  • University of New Orleans in New Orleans.

The college-bound residents of the Pelican State can be happy knowing their home offers so many opportunities to make it affordable to attend in-state colleges and universities.