Tuesday, 20 January 2015 14:38
Louisiana Treasurer Kennedy says leave TOPS alone
 

kennedy-officeThe year was 1988. A successful New Orleans businessman named Patrick F. Taylor had a speech to give. His audience was 183 restless middle schoolers who weren't college bound. Heck, many weren't even high school bound. They were biding their time until they could drop out of school.

Instead of a pep talk, Taylor decided to make a pitch. He would pay for the kids to go to college if they kept going to class, stayed out of trouble and maintained a "B" average. With that promise, Taylor established the building blocks for TOPS.

TOPS (the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students) is the state-funded college scholarship program that has benefited more than 200,000 kids in Louisiana. It doesn't just send kids to LSU or Southern. It sends them to truck driving school if they want to drive a truck. It sends them to court reporting school if they want to become a court reporter. In other words, TOPS fulfills dreams.

Now some will tell you that TOPS has become too expensive. They'll tell you the sky is falling. They'll tell you the state budget is on a collision course, and TOPS is helping fuel the inevitable crash. They'll tell you that changes can be made gradually to make the program more affordable for the state. Here's what I say: Leave TOPS alone. We can't afford to diminish what TOPS does for our state.

The Hamilton Project, an arm of the Brookings Institution, crunched the numbers last year on what a college degree is worth. Not surprisingly, a degree in chemical engineering is more of a moneymaker than a drama degree. Also not surprisingly, any degree is better than no degree. The Hamilton Project's conclusion: "Median earnings of bachelor's degree graduates are higher than median earnings of high school graduates for all 80 majors studied." For every successful college dropout like Bill Gates, there are a thousand other dropouts clocking in at minimum wage jobs and not making a living wage.

Patrick Taylor knew the importance of a college education. He left home at 16 and made his way to LSU, which didn't charge tuition at the time. Today, it easily costs $10,000 in tuition and fees a year to attend LSU as a full-time student once books and summer classes are included. That's a hefty bill for a middle class family with four other kids still at home. 

Now I don't want to shock you, but Louisiana is not a wealthy state. Median income is well below the national average. We're rich in culture, food, history and tradition. Economically, we often struggle. That's why education is so important. Our future can be better than our present or our past, but only if our kids go to school. 

We offer our kids a free elementary school education. We offer them a free high school education. But a high school education isn't always enough. We need to continue to offer young Louisianians help with a college education if we expect them to succeed in a keenly competitive, global, knowledge-based economy. We also need to continue to give them an incentive to stay in Louisiana, instead of migrating to Denver and Dallas and Atlanta. 

Georgia has a form of TOPS. It's called HOPE. In 2011, big changes were made to HOPE - changes that were made in the name of saving the state money. Suddenly, technical college students had to maintain a higher grade-point average. Tuition assistance was slashed. The result was that 62,504 fewer kids received HOPE. Within two years, Georgia backpedaled on the changes. 

We should not make the same mistake in Louisiana that Georgia made. TOPS has been a roaring success. Sixty nine percent of the more than 62,000 students who received an initial TOPS payment between the 2002-03 and 2006-07 academic years graduated from a Louisiana public college. That's a triumph.

I'll leave you with Patrick Taylor's take on why TOPS matters: "Attendance at public colleges and universities must be based on the ability to learn and not the ability to pay."


jindal-twoThe Gray Portrait of Dorian Bobby Jindal




Media Sources

BayoubuzzSteve

Website: www.bayoubuzz.com
Login to post comments
  • A July 4th Fact of Facts: America is Land of Immigrants
  • Poll: Trump strong on jobs, weak on tweets, viewed as reckless, thin-skinned, sexist
  • President Trump, It doesn't feel like Independence Day
  • YIPPIE! The naked truth about free speech, cherished especially on Independence Day

mass2On July 4, 1778, George Washington doubled liquor rations for the soldiers quartered in Princeton, NJ, as a way to celebrate Independence Day. It’s fitting, therefore, that the Fourth of July is America's top-selling beer holiday, according to the Beer Institute. It estimated, in 2013, that sales of beer on the 4th could total $1 billion, doubtlessly higher today. “In moderation,” claims a CA brewery investor, Grover McKean, “beer is tasty and healthy.” Who could disagree?

Read More

joe mikaAs Donald Trump faces the top world leaders this week, including a face-time with Vladimir Putin, and as his healthcare proposals face an uphill climb, his poll numbers for how the nation views him could be better.

According to a morning Consult/Politico poll released Wednesday morning, his tweets, including that against MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski, and his personality are not helping him, at all.

Read More

indy dayII know the calendar says we are approaching the 4th of July, but, it just doesn’t feel like Independence Day.

Perhaps it should.  It’s hot as heck.  The airlines have been packed. The hot dogs are ready for grilling.  The umps are saying, "play ball". The patriotic activities are scheduled. The fireworks are ready-for-blasting. 

Yet, it just doesn’t feel like independence day.

Read More

bill rights2To President Thomas Jefferson, July 4th celebrated more than the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He thought it was a link to the future. The message prominent colonists sent to King George III led to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the initial and most prominent feature of which is the First Amendment that guarantees free speech. It’s part of the country’s fundamental essence that each man and woman can say what they feel about government, or anything else, proving President Donald Trump needs some civics lessons.

Read More

latter-blum2

Dead Pelican

Optimized-DeadPelican2 1 1