Five Reasons Families Demand Opportunity Scholarships

Last week Senator Mike Regan introduced legislation to expand Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs.

The reason is simple. Tax credit scholarships have empowered thousands of Pennsylvania students to escape the limits of their zip code. But each year, thousands more are denied the opportunity of an education that meets their needs. Sen. Regan’s bill would help all 1.7 million Pennsylvania students by raising the limits on these tax credit scholarship programs.

Tax credit scholarships are effective at providing educational opportunities to low-income families and enjoy bipartisan popularity. Even so, these programs have been treated as a political football. This is particularly evident from recent statements by the Governor’s office.

Here are five reminders why tax credit scholarships should expand.

1. A little help goes a long way. With average scholarships around $2,000, EITC and OSTC programs educate students at a fraction of the cost to taxpayers. Relatively small scholarships give low and mid-income families real education choices.

2. Scholarships change lives. Thanks to the EITC and OSTC, hundreds of schools—like Gesu School in the poorest Congressional District in the Country—are empowering students to break the generational cycle of poverty.

Gesu School 8th grade student council treasurer Makayla – Photo credit Edward Savaria

3. When families choose, taxpayers save. The EITC alone saved taxpayers more than $1 billion from 2002-2014. Consider the comparison highlighted in the chart below—both scholarship programs combined represent less than one-half of one percent of the overall education budget.

Graphic: Education Funding vs EITC

4. Increases the likelihood of college graduation. A new Florida study shows students who use the state’s tax credit scholarship program are 10-20 percent more likely to attend and graduate from college.

5. Gives local business an easy way to give-back to the community. At a time when billions of dollars can’t persuade major corporations to set up shop here, these programs encourage thousands of small businesses to become more engaged within their local communities and schools.

Graphic: Business Tax Credits By County

Each student in this commonwealth deserves the opportunity to thrive. It’s time to end student waiting lists. Let's raise the limits of the EITC and OSTC programs.