The Louisiana Senate today will take up the debate over whether or not to raise eligibility standards for the state’s free college tuition program called TOPS. The Associated Press reports the price tag for the program is growing to $250 million next year, and lawmakers will discuss whether the state needs to trim its costs. Louisiana has among the most generous tuition aid programs in the nation. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jack Donahue is proposing to raise the minimum grade point average and ACT score required to get a TOPS award. The Senate is scheduled to take up Donahue’s proposal, SB 520, this afternoon. Supporters say the bill could control costs while encouraging students to reach higher standards. Opponents, who have been successful in killing proposed changes to the TOPS program in past legislative sessions, say the changes would disproportionately eliminate minority students from the program. Currently, the most basic TOPS award for attending a four-year institution requires an ACT score of 20 and a 2.5 GPA. BRAC is among those in support of increasing standards for the program, and in March released an analysis of TOPS that says it is facing funding challenges. “Due to broad availability and tuition increases, expenditures have increased 212% since 1999 to cover the escalating cost of administering the scholarship program,” BRAC says. “In addition, the academic standards for the award are not deemed merit-based by the BRAC analysis.” Currently, the lowest-level award for a four-year institution requires a 20 on the ACT and a 2.5 GPA.