More Florida kids are enrolling in college, and one study concludes the nation’s largest school choice program, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, may be a reason for the increase.
Florida’s tax scholarship program works similarly to a Kansas program that allows corporations to receive tax credits for donating to private school scholarship programs. The scholarships help students from poorer families pay tuition and fees at eligible private schools. In Florida, about 100,000 students and 2,000 private schools participate in the program.
Urban Institute research concluded that college enrollment rates among students in the tax scholarship program increased by about 15 percent. About 45 percent of students who utilized the program in elementary or middle school enrolled in college compared to 39 percent of other students. Students who utilized the tax scholarship programs for high school had college enrollment rates of 48 percent compared to 42 percent of other students. The majority of increased college enrollments are occurring at community colleges, but there was a small spike in enrollments to four-year colleges from private scholarship students as well.
Kansas’ tax credit school scholarship program started in 2015, thanks to legislation adopted in 2014. It allows low-income families in failing public schools to attend some private schools in the state. During the 2016 school year, 188 Kansas students participated, but 22 percent of Kansas students are eligible for the program.
During the 2017 Kansas legislative session, the successful Kansas scholarship program was under fire. Lawmakers inserted language into school finance bills to limit the tax credit program, and in the House, lawmakers offered an amendment to phase out the scholarship program. Ultimately, school choice advocates were able to expand Kansas’ tax credit scholarship program. Currently, scholarships are funded by tax credits in exchange for corporate donations, but in 2018, individuals can receive a 70 percent state tax credit for donations, which also qualify as charitable gifts for federal tax purposes.