‘Choice’ students have college focus, study claims

SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER

The lower-income, mostly nonWhite students participating in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program ‒ now serving 100,000 students in private schools statewide ‒ are up to 43 percent more likely to enroll in four-year colleges than like students in public schools, and up to 20 percent more likely to earn bachelor’s degrees, according to a study by the Urban Institute.

The outcomes for scholarship students are even stronger for students who use the scholarship four or more years. Those students are up to twice as likely to attend a four-year college than their public-school peers, and up to 45 percent more likely to earn bachelor’s degrees, according to the study.

Researchers reported college enrollment and degree completion for two groups of students: those who began using the scholarship in grades 3 -7, and those who began using the scholarship in grades 8-10. They found scholarship students had better outcomes across the board.

Long waiting list

The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship was created in 2001 and is funded through corporate contributions. It now serves 99,453 students in 1,799 private schools, and has a waiting list this year of roughly 13,000 students.

Sixty-eight percent of scholarship students are Black or Hispanic. Their average family income is $25,755 a year.

A decade’s worth of standardized test scores shows they were typically the most struggling students in their prior public schools. According to the most recent funding comparison across education sectors, the value of a scholarship is 55 percent of per-pupil spending in Florida district schools.

Step Up For Students is a nonprofit that administers four state-supported scholarship programs: the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship for lower-income students; the Gardiner Scholarship, an education savings account for students with special needs; the Hope Scholarship, for victims of bullying; and Reading Scholarship Accounts, for public school students who struggle with reading. For more info, go to https://www.stepupforstudents.org.

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