POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION: THEN AND NOW
The Board of Regents’ 2001 Master Plan was transformative for Louisiana higher education in charting a path to advance students’ academic readiness, alignment of preparation with postsecondary opportunities, and beginning a steady growth in access and attainment. TOPS scholarships were introduced in fall 1998, and over the ensuing decades expanded in student participation from approximately 39,000 in 2003 to more than 51,000 in 2017-18.15 With the introduction of the TOPS Core, students were guided to the curricula needed to enter college-level programs, while the growth of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System provided more and better programs for direct-to-workforce training. The creation in 2007 of Louisiana’s need-based GO Grants, despite chronic shortfalls in funding, helped more students access higher education. More than 23,000 college students enrolled in 2017-18 held GO Grants, almost five times the recipients in the first year of the program.
During the last two decades, enrollments rose by more than 32,000, a remarkable 18.3%. Admissions standards keyed to institutional roles, scopes, and missions guided more students to the best campus match for their level of academic preparation and future goals, with the follow-up effect of boosting attainment as more students were able to persist and finish in the campuses they chose. The dramatic results are reflected in the data in the table below.