Letter: Legislature shouldn’t risk successful TOPS

Even someone of “modest intellectual attainment” watching the Louisiana Legislature can appreciate the value of killing bad bills.

The House Education Committee should be commended for sending more ill-conceived bills to the “bone yard.” Why risk the highly successful TOPS to provide marginal benefits to badly broken, ineffective institutions? To pass such bills would be as feckless as the editorials that praise them.

The first point that needs to be made is that the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, as the name states, was created to benefit STUDENTS — not institutions. All students in Louisiana have benefited, with increased rigor in high schools, increased parental involvement, increased access to college and retention of more bright students in Louisiana.

To say that it “does nothing for universities,” however, is ludicrous. Virtually every dollar of TOPS is paid to the educational institutions. To imply that absent the incentive of TOPS the school enrollment would remain the same is to defy the logic of a demand curve (where price increases, demand decreases).

It is also fallacy to think all dollars saved from reductions in TOPS would be allocated to colleges and universities.

The second point is tuition is only a portion of college costs. The students or their families are responsible for books, fees, room and board, which generally total more than tuition. So, implying they have no “skin in the game” is inaccurate.

The premise that because students lose their scholarships the state did not benefit also could be challenged. Isn’t a workforce with some college better than one with none?

If cost saving is really the goal, the auditor may want to consider other statistics.

The House Education Committee looked with “clear eyes” and saw that changing TOPS was not the answer.

TOPS is good for only four years and requires students to maintain certain standards, or they lose the awards.

What about the colleges? I believe TOPS graduation rate is more than 60 percent. A quick Google search showed 14 public colleges and universities in the state with 20 campuses, not counting the community colleges.

Check the four-year graduation rates, and not many would even approach 50 percent. (In fact, most data is based on a six-year graduation rate). Some are below 10 percent. How much is it costing the state and students for this abysmal performance? What opportunities are our flagship universities losing from this dilution of funds?

Readers of this newspaper would be much better served by editorials with less sarcasm and at least “modest intellectual” analysis. There should be changes, but not to TOPS.

Byron LeBlanc

business owner

Metairie