Title page for ETD etd-08312004-165648

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Smothers, Roderick L
Author's Email Address rsmothe@lsu.edu
URN etd-08312004-165648
Title The Influence of State Merit-Based Aid on Access and Educational Experiences: An Exploration of the Louisiana Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS)
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Educational Leadership, Research & Counseling
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Becky Ropers Huilman Committee Chair
Eugene Kennedy Committee Member
Geraldine Holmes Committee Member
Katie Cherry Committee Member
Tom Durant Committee Member
Kevin Mulcahey Dean's Representative
  • minority
  • higher education
  • access
  • students
  • low-income
  • state merit-aid
Date of Defense 2004-06-17
Availability unrestricted
Access to higher education at the beginning of the new millennium faces unprecedented challenges. Although many of those challenges have been identified and addressed through research and federal and state policies, there still exists an inherent gap in the current and potential future success of today’s college students. This is particularly true for minority and lower-income students. Some of the identified challenges include: lack of financial assistance, persisting through and graduating from college, pre-college preparation, socioeconomic status, and family support/motivation. This study focuses primarily on the financial barriers that impede the process of providing equal access to all students, which is the access dilemma.

The purpose of this study is to assess the Louisiana TOPS program a) to determine its primary goals according to key administrators, policy makers, and legislators, b) to determine the extent to which key administrators, policy makers and legislators believe that TOPS has impacted the status of higher education in Louisiana, and c) to ascertain perceptions of students on the influence of the TOPS program on their educational experiences. This study also explored the various aspects of the access dilemma in Louisiana and how TOPS has positively and/or negatively influenced its various components.

Qualitative and quantitative measures are employed in this study in an effort to explore the access dilemma in Louisiana and the impact that TOPS has had since its inception in 1997. Two primary sources of data resulting from a researcher-developed questionnaire and elite interviews with selected experts were merged to form the basis for this study.

Major findings of the study show that a) the lack of declared goals for the TOPS program has hindered its effective administration and evaluation, b) a majority of the qualitative responses revealed that the TOPS initiative has positively impacted higher education in Louisiana, and c) TOPS has had positive and negative influences on the educational and social experiences of its recipients.

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