BATON ROUGE, La. – Board of Regents members want to see additional data and research to analyze recent declines in college enrollment statewide among Louisiana’s public colleges and universities. A preliminary enrollment survey presented to the Board today estimates a decrease of 2.6% in undergraduate enrollment for fall 2021 among public campuses. Additionally, 3.1% fewer public college TOPS-eligible recipients were paid for fall 2021, with an overall decrease of 3.4% when private, proprietary, and cosmetology schools are included.
Based on these current enrollment trends, higher education is requesting level funding for TOPS in fiscal year 2022-23, marking the first time since the program’s inception in 1998-99 that a budget increase will not be sought. A requested appropriation of $330 million would provide stand-still funding for TOPS and is currently included in the Executive Budget for consideration during the 2022 Regular Legislative Session.
Staff from the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA) shared with Regents’ members that initial TOPS data indicate several possible reasons for the eligibility and acceptance declines including:
- Decreases in high school graduates processed for TOPS eligibility
- Decreases in acceptance by TOPS-eligible students
- Declines in overall college and university enrollment, and
- Increased student exceptions granted mostly in response to hurricane disruptions
The chart below shows these key declines in TOPS statistics among recent high school graduates:
in % Eligible
in Acceptance Rate
Enrollment in postsecondary institutions is also declining both nationally and statewide. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, the nation’s enrollment decline stands at 2.7%. Louisiana is experiencing a similar statewide number.
“We are seeing the troubling impact of multiple major disruptions on all of our students here in Louisiana from K-12 to college,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed. “Higher education stakeholders have been signaling anticipated enrollment declines due to COVID and multiple hurricanes, for many months. We must understand all we can about the challenges facing our students and respond in a robust way to address them,” said Dr. Reed.
“There are many reasons students may not be accepting their TOPS scholarships immediately, including enrolling out of state, going to work or avoiding changes on campuses due to COVID,” said Regents Chair Collis Temple. “We cannot underestimate how the pandemic and disasters have impacted the lives of our students, but we do need to figure out how to get them back on track so we can develop the talent our state desperately needs to recover.”
Moving forward, Regents and LOSFA will continue to monitor enrollment and acceptance rates among TOPS recipients and continue to adjust projections accordingly. Additionally, LOSFA plans to engage high school and college students in focus group activities to better understand their challenges and the impact on TOPS participation.