Case Study

TOPS Scholarship Program

Legacy Systems Replacement & Integration


State Operated Scholarship Fund

In 1999 Louisiana businessman Patrick F. Taylor created a trust to help fund secondary education for students across the state. This program was called the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) and it allowed any student in the state with a 2.5 GPA and at least a 19 on the ACT access to free or greatly reduced tuition costs. Since that time TOPS has helped more than 616,000 students to achieve their educational goals.

Award System

In 2008, the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Aid released an RFP for a significant re-write of their award system’s online portal. In the ten years since TOPS was created there had been substantial changes to the award process. Technology changes meant that the original portal software was hopelessly slow, out of date, and difficult to edit. The look and feel was also lacking and did not account for the rapid rise in mobile usage.

One problem in particular was bogging down the TOPS technology. TOPS awards amounts are based on the existing TOPS policy during the month and year of the applicant’s high school graduation. Returning veterans in particular frequently applied for TOPS several years after graduation. The current system had completely distinct copies of the award system code base for every single month of its existence that were called up as needed during the application process. This created significant lag-time on all applications.

Technology Changes

Carrollton was brought on board as a partner with Baton Rouge-based Method Technology Solutions. Upon contract award, Carrollton immediately architected a new system that eliminated the use of COBAL and AS400 and re-wrote the software using the more modern Java. This allowed for a flexible approach and better design, as the navigation rule was de-coupled from the action. The code was simplified so that all variations on TOPS authorization were organized within one database, greatly increasing system speed. It was also restructured to be modular, allowing for companion portals and add-on applications to be built if necessary.

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