Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Students make their way around campus on Field House Drive near Lockett Hall during the first day of fall semester classes for LSU students, Monday, August 24, 2015. ORG XMIT: BAT1508241736196086

Advocate file photo by HILARY SCHEINUK < p>

The new bipartisan panel of legislators setting out to evaluate the popular Taylor Opportunity Program for Students' future will hold its first meeting at the Capitol on Sept. 6.

“To a large degree, TOPS has not changed at all in 20 years, except the cost,” Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Morrish, R-Jennings, said in a news release.

Morrish, who wrote the resolution to create the task force during the recent legislative session, cited the ballooning costs of TOPS, which has grown to nearly $300 million today.

Other members who will serve on the panel, appointed by the respective Education Committee chairs and chamber leadership, include House Education Committee Chair Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette; Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge; Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport; Rep. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge; Rep. Gary Carter, D-New Orleans; Sen. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans; Sen. Ed Price, D-Gonzales; Sen. Bodi White, R-Central; and Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe.

The task force is expected to evaluate potential changes to the program to provide stability amid rising costs. Last year, TOPS awards were drastically scaled back for the first time in the program's history as legislators attempted to shore up the state budget.

When the study is complete, the task force will file a report to the Legislature.

TOPS was created as an incentive to keep Louisiana high schoolers who meet certain benchmarks in the state when they go to college. To qualify, they have to take an outlined high school curriculum and earn at least a 2.5 grade point average, as well as score at least a 20 on the standardized ACT test -- the state average.

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