Mr. Patrick F. Taylor conceived the idea of the “Taylor Plan” in 1988 when he was asked to speak to 183 underachieving inner-city 7th and 8th grade students at Livingston Middle School in New Orleans East. These students had been held back in school, many more than once. They were not expected to make it past the 8th grade, let alone enter high school. Most had lost all hope in themselves and were planning to drop out of school.
When Mr. Taylor asked the Livingston students whether they wanted to go to college, every hand in the room went up. Curious about this paradox, Mr. Taylor soon learned that the students’ parents had given up on their children. Since the parents could not afford to send their children to college, they were not pushing their children to do well in school. Mr. Taylor challenged these middle school kids, (who became known as “Taylor’s Kids”): if they maintained a B average in school in a college prep curriculum and stayed out of trouble, he would make sure they could go to college.
Approximately half of these original “Taylor’s Kids” graduated from high school, and half of those students entered college. Five of the original “Taylor’s Kids” were selected for Who’s Who Among American High School Students.
The students’ response to his challenge caused Mr. Taylor to examine the status of access to higher education in the late 1980’s. He discovered numerous national reports and surveys showing that more than 80% of American parents felt they could not afford to send their children to college. Yet, survey after survey showed that if kids were given an opportunity to break the financial barrier, many would strive for a college education.
In 1989, Mr. Taylor gathered data on college performance and costs. He learned that virtually every university in Louisiana had an open admissions policy. As a result, students came to college unprepared and dropped out in alarming numbers. This proved an expensive proposition for both the students and the state taxpayers footing the bill for the higher education system in the state. He also found ACT scores for Louisiana students were below the national average, and students graduating from high school needed remedial instruction in virtually every basic subject at the college level.
After much hard work, Mr. Taylor convinced the Louisiana Legislature to adopt what the news media named the “Taylor Plan.” It guaranteed access to college for low and moderate-income students based on their academic achievements, and not on their ability to pay. The first “Taylor Plan” was signed into law on July 10, 1989.
The original 1989 “Taylor Plan” required that students earn a 2.5 GPA in a 17.5 unit college prep curriculum and score of 18 on the ACT. Because the program was implemented initially for low and moderate-income students, the legislature capped the family income requirement at $25,000 for families with one dependent child, increasing it by $5,000 for each additional child, up to a maximum of $35,000. The “Taylor Plan” awarded qualified students with tuition and fees at any 4-year public college or university in Louisiana.
When longtime CBS newsman Mike Wallace featured Mr. Taylor with the “Taylor’s Kids” on a 60 Minutes segment in September 1989, Mr. Taylor’s mission took on a national scope, as other states called wondering how to implement a similar program. That same year, Mr. Taylor convinced New Mexico to enact a version of the “Taylor Plan” program. In 1990, Texas, Florida, and Indiana voted for state-paid college tuition assistance programs for their children. In 2010, Alaska became the 23rd state to enact a “Taylor Plan.”
In Louisiana, the current version of the “Taylor Plan” is known as “TOPS” (Taylor Opportunity Program for Students). The program was renamed in 2008 in honor of Mr. Taylor.
To obtain more information on TOPS, students should contact their high school counselor or the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance at (800) 259-5626, ext. 1012. Students may also visit www.osfa.state.la.us
Please also visit the States with Taylor Plans section for more information about the program in other states.