BATON ROUGE – A record number of Louisiana public high school graduates were eligible for Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) awards in 2017, according to new data from the Louisiana Board of Regents.

More than 19,200 graduates in the Class of 2017 achieved eligibility for at least one TOPS scholarship, up from 18,373 in 2016 and 16,289 in 2012. The increase in eligible students marks a gain of 18 percent since 2012.

The Class of 2017 was also the first class in state history to top 50 percent of all graduates qualifying for a TOPS scholarship, with 52 percent of graduates meeting the bar.

"In Louisiana, more students than ever before are graduating high school, earning high-value credentials, achieving college-going scores on the ACT and completing financial aid forms to fund postsecondary opportunities," said State Superintendent John White. "The increase in the number of students who are eligible to receive TOPS scholarships is another testament to the great work happening in K-12 classrooms across the state to prepare our students for success after high school."

"The dramatic increase in the number of Louisiana high school graduates entering higher education with a TOPS award is a testament to our collaboration with the Department of Education," said Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Joseph Rallo. "Together we have increased the rigor of academic work to prepare them for the challenges and opportunities afforded by participation in higher education. The student, as well as the State of Louisiana, benefits from their success."

TOPS is a program of state scholarships for Louisiana residents who attend either one of the Louisiana public colleges and universities, schools that are a part of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, Louisiana-approved proprietary and cosmetology schools, or institutions that are a part of the Louisiana Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. There are four levels of TOPS awards, based on students' American College Test (ACT) scores, grade-point averages and post-secondary pursuits. Those levels include Honors, Performance, Opportunity and Tech.

The Class of 2017 saw increased eligibility in every TOPS funding tier since last year and since 2012.