Louisiana – High School to College & Careers


College and Career Readiness

Louisiana has adopted the Louisiana Student Standards designed to prepare students for college and a career. The state requires all public high schools to administer the ACT or ACT Work Keys to all 11th graders. The state pays for one administration; students who choose to re-take the ACT do so at their own expense. End-of-course examinations in Algebra 1, Geometry, English II, English III, Biology and U.S. History are also required. Transitional, readiness or bridge courses are available but not required. Students meeting the College and Career Ready Standards may enter credit bearing courses at any state supported IHE to which they have been admitted.

College and Career Planning

High School Graduation Requirements 

Course and Diploma Requirements for Students Entering Grade 9 in the 2014-2015 School Year

Students may complete two types of high school diplomas: the Taylor Opportunity for Students (TOPS) University Diploma or the Jump Start TOPS Tech Career Diploma. The Jump Start program allows students to take career courses, certify skill mastery in specific career fields and prepares students for high-wage careers.

Each diploma requires 23 credits for completion. However, all Louisiana’s 9th and 10th grade students will take common foundational coursework, irrespective of the diploma pathway they ultimately receive. Each student will be required to complete 2 units of English, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Health & PE in these grades.

Subject  TOPS University Diploma Jump Start TOPS Tech (Career) Diploma

Four Credits

English I 

English II

English III

English IV

Four Credits

English I

English II

Two Credits from the following: English III, English IV, AP, IB, Business English, Technical Writing or comparable courses as approved by BESE


Three Credits

Algebra I 


Algebra II

One credit from the following:

Algebra III; Advanced Math- Functions and Statistics

One Credit from the following:

Algebra I, Algebra I-Part One and Two, or an applied or hybrid Algebra Course


Four Credits

Biology I

Chemistry I 

Two credits from the following*: one of Chemistry II, Physics I, Electricity and Magnetism, Biology II; or one of Biology II, Anatomy and Physiology

Two Credits

Biology I

Chemistry I

Social Science

Three Credits

U.S. History

One from: Civics, Governement, AP U.S. Governemtn, and Politics

Two from: Western Civilization, or European History; and World Geography, World History, Government, or Economics

Two Credits

U.S. History

One from: Civics, Governement, AP U.S. Governemtn, and Politics

Health/ Physical Education

Three Credits

Physical Education

One from: Physical Education II, Marching Band, Extracurricular Sports, Cheering or Dance Teams

One from: Health Education or JROTC I and II

Three Credits

Physical Education

One from: Physical Education II, Marching Band, Extracurricular Sports, Cheering or Dance Teams

One from: Health Education or JROTC I and II

Additional Credits

Two Credits in an Art: Visual arts, Music, Dance, Theater, Speech III and IV, Fine Arts Survey, or Drafting

Two Credits in a Foreign Language: both units must be in the same language.Three Elective Credits

Three Elective Courses

Nine Jump Start Course Units:

Each student must complete a regionally-designed, district-implemented series of Career and Technical Education Jump Start coursework and workplace-based learning experiences leading to a statewide or regional Jump Start credential.

TOTAL 23 23

Students may earn a Community Service Endorsement for completing a minimum of 80 hours of community service hours by graduation.

Assessment Requirements

Students take end-of-course (EOC) tests in six areas: English II, English III, Algebra I, Geometry, Biology, and U.S. History. To earn a high school diploma, students must score Fair or above on at least three EOC exams, including one in English, one in math, and one in Biology or U.S. History. Student scores on EOC tests count toward a student’s final course grade. Students in grade 11 must also take the ACT or ACT WorkKeys if on track for a Jump Start Diploma.

Accelerated Learning Options

Dual and Concurrent Enrollment

High school juniors and seniors who participate in dual enrollment may earn college credits while in high school. Students must have the permission of their high school administrators and meet institutional admissions requirements at the postsecondary institution where they wish to enroll.

Early College Admissions

Louisiana high school students have the option of leaving high school early—typically after the junior year—and enrolling full time in college. Students who qualify for early admission must have a “B” average over three years and a score of 25 or higher on the ACT or the SAT equivalent. Early college students earn their high school diplomas by successfully completing their first 24 credit-hours at the college level.

Advanced Placement

The Louisiana Department of Education uses federal funds to reduce to exam cost for low-income students. Further, the department provides grants to schools that are implementing or expanding an Advanced Placement (AP) program. AP courses carry extra weight when determining the GPA for the Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) scholarship.

Career and Technical Education

The Louisiana Department of Education has developed a new career education initiative called Jump Start. After a transitional period, students may pursue industry credentials and technical diplomas that prepare them for immediate workforce entry upon college graduation. Schools will receive extra credit for students that pursue advanced credentials and technical diplomas.

Postsecondary Admissions

Four-Year Institutions

The Board of Regents group public, four-year universities by institution type. Each grouping shares minimum standards for ACT scores and high school GPAs in the core curriculum. Universities may adopt additional, more specific or rigorous requirements.

All applicants must complete the Regents’ 4 Core curriculum, which is composed of 19 credits: four units each in English, math, science and social studies; two units of world language; and one unit of fine arts. The Board of Regents will use the TOPS University Diploma curriculum starting with the 2018 high school graduating class. Universities may make exceptions to the minimum admission standards for 4 to 8 percent of the freshman class, depending on the institution type.

Minimum Performance Requirements by Institution Type

Institution Type High School GPA ACT Composite Score
Flagship (Louisiana State University) 3.0 25
Statewide Universities 2.5 23
Regional Universities 2.0 20

Two-Year and/or Technical Colleges

Community colleges are open-admission institutions. Applicants must complete an admissions application, submit their high school diplomas, GED credentials and/or scores on institutional tests that indicate their ability to benefit from instruction, provide proof of selective service registration, and produce immunization records. System policy states that specific educational programs may require additional admissions documentation.

Postsecondary Placement


Students at all institutions must earn at least 18 on the English and 19 on the math sections of the ACT (or the equivalent on SAT, ASSET or Compass) for placement in entry-level courses. Universities may admit students who are within 2 points of minimum college-level placement in Mathematics Summer Provisional Admission. To be fully admitted, these students must enroll in prescribed mathematics course(s) during the summer prior to admission with appropriate support and complete the degree-credit mathematics course with a grade of “C” or better and a term GPA of at least 2.5.

Students within 1 ACT point of the benchmark in Mathematics (or within 2 ACT points in English) may be admitted if enrolled in an English/math course with supplemental/co-requisite delivery of developmental support. As of June 2015, regional institutions can admit students needing one developmental course, but only 2-year institutions and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are authorized to teach the developmental courses.

Postsecondary to High School Feedback Reports

The Louisiana Department of Education publishes data on the number and percentage of graduates who are attending college and the number who return after the first academic year. The department also publishes ACT scores by school and district.

State Financial Aid

The majority of state financial aid is allocated based on academic merit.

Louisiana’s Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) scholarship has four award categories. Specific requirements appear in the table below.

  Tech Award Opportunity Ward Performance Award Honors Award
Minimum GPA 2.5 3.0 3.0 3.0
Minimum ACT 17 State average, currently 20 23 27
Minimum Curriculum Career Diploma curriculum Core 4 Core 4 Core 4
Award Range Equal to tuition Equal to tuition Tuition, plus $400 per year Tuition, plus $800 per year
Continuing Eligibility Requirements 2.5 GPA at end of each spring semester 2.3 end of first spring semester and 2.5 thereafter 3.0 GPA at end of each spring semester 3.0 GPA at end of each spring semester

The Technical TOPS award requires students to complete the TOPS technical core curriculum in which students may take either career-major courses or a communications course in lieu of the Core 4 curriculum requirements for foreign language and fine arts.

Special Thanks

SREB would like to thank the staff at the following agencies for their assistance in carefully reviewing and confirming the accuracy of the policies and programs described in this document:

Louisiana Board of Regents
Louisiana Community and Technical College System


Louisiana Board of Regents
Louisiana Community and Technical College System
Louisiana Department of Education
Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance Louisiana State Legislature