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Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU students and other concerned university students Thursday to rally against the higher education budget cuts after assembling at nearby A.Z. Young Park. Louisiana Community & Technical Colleges representatives also held workforce demonstrations in the Capitol rotunda during the day to show the value of their educational system.

Travis Spradling

For the state panel examining the future of the TOPS college scholarships, now comes the hard part.

The task force, created last year by the Legislature to examine ways to rein in the cherished but costly entitlement, has been gathering information that members hope could lead to a long-elusive consensus. One evergreen idea is to tighten the academic eligibility requirements, but some politicians have cited a dearth of solid data as reason to hold off.

After months of information-gathering by the task force, they now know a lot more than before. 

They know that raising the minimum high school core curriculum grade point average for the TOPS Opportunity scholarships from 2.50 to 2.75 would reduce the number of eligible students by 19 percent. Adopting a 3.0 minimum would cut out 44 percent of currently eligible students.

They also know that raising the minimum ACT store from 20 to 21 out of 36 would take 27 percent out of contention. An increase to 22 would affect more than half of the current applicants, based on last spring's graduating class.

These figures are bound to be as daunting as the ever-growing cost projections of doing nothing. Armed with the data, the task force is now supposed to make recommendations for ideas the Legislature could consider to curb expenses.

Lawmakers have a lousy track record of doing much of anything, of course, because they know perfectly well that at least some of their constituents would lose out under stricter standards.

I'm not sure it makes it easier to know precisely how many.

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.