Recommendations for the Louisiana TOPS Commission

College Affordability and Completion

February 13, 2018

On February 7, 2018, Michael Dannenberg, Director of Strategic Initiatives for Policy testified to the Louisiana TOPS Commission as they considered changes to their state financial aid program. His opening statement is included below, and you can read the full testimony here.










“Chairman Morrish, Representative Carter, and Members of the TOPS Commission, thank you for the opportunity to testify this morning on the importance of state student financial aid and how it can be used to promote economic growth, educational opportunity, and racial and socioeconomic equity.

My name is Michael Dannenberg, and I am the Director of Strategic Initiatives for Policy at the Education Reform Now think tank affiliate of Democrats for Education Reform. I am a former senior level education policy aide to the U.S. Under Secretary of Education, former Senator Kennedy, former Senator Claiborne Pell, and other national political figures, but have a long history of advancing non-partisan and bipartisan initiatives aimed at increasing educational opportunity.

I have three basic messages: (1) all economic trend data indicates that nearly every young person is going to need at least some postsecondary education or training at some point in time; (2) in supporting young people’s education aspirations, we need to break free of the binary debate of scholarship aid based exclusively on family financial need vs. scholarship aid based exclusively on student test scores; Louisiana can and should have a TOPS program that makes use of a more nuanced definition of merit that rewards effort, progress, and academic results; and (3) long-term, Louisiana would be wise to redesign or augment its higher education support in a way that caps student loan debt for those from middle-income and low-income families who earn it; essentially a college promise plan that rewards responsibility.”

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