Florida Scholarship Program Boosts College Enrollment, Graduation

Getting into college isn’t easy. It takes grit, good grades, and for some? Bribes.

Across the nation, celebrities are being indicted for participating in a bribery scheme to get their children into college. Bribes involved falsifying SAT scores, altering grades, and even having kids accepted as crew athletes (despite never touching a paddle in their lives). If only there was a better way to prepare kids for rigorous college academics.

Fortunately, there is: school choice.

Earlier this year, the Urban Institute released a study evaluating college enrollment and graduation rates for students who participated in the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) program. As the following chart shows, students who entered the program in high school enrolled in college at higher rates than their non-FTC peers. Similar results were found for students who entered the program in middle school.


The FTC program also had a positive impact on bachelor’s degree attainment, with an 11 percent increase (or one percentage point) for students who entered FTC in grades 3-7 and a 20 percent increase (or 2 percentage points) among those who entered in high school. Associate degree attainment saw a similar increase for students entering the program in elementary or middle school, but there was no significant impact for high school entrants.

Florida has shown that school choice works.

In Pennsylvania, tax credit scholarship programs have provided similar opportunities for thousands of students, like Djeneba Nayete, who was featured in Federation for Children's Voices for Choice.

Djeneba vividly remembers when she received a scholarship from the Children’s Scholarship Fund Philadelphia (CSFP): “That night, upon receiving the letter, my mother cried.”  She went on to attend West Catholic Preparatory High School, which led to other opportunities down the road.

Attending West Catholic helped pave the way for my younger siblings to pursue a higher education. Because of my academic achievements, I received the founder’s scholarship and other grants to attend La Salle University… Even more, with the help of CSFP my mother was able to afford not only my tuition, but also the tuition of my three younger siblings.

She ends by saying, “I am a direct product of school choice—and there needs to be many more!” It shouldn’t be this hard for families to give their children a good education, but regrettably it is.

Thousands of Pennsylvania students are denied similar opportunities due to arbitrary caps on our state’s scholarship programs. In 2017 alone, 53,000 student applications were denied.

Lawmakers can change that. Senator Mike Regan’s SB 266 would increase Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program caps by 25 percent if 90 percent of credits were used the previous year. 

Speaker of the House Mike Turzai’s HB 800 calls for a $100M increase in the EITC program next year—the largest one-year increase since the program’s inception. In addition, his plan would boost available tax credits by 10 percent when 90 percent of tax credits were used the previous year.

Both proposals boldly argue that tax credit scholarships aren’t some luxury—they’re an absolute necessity for students who need an option beyond their zip code-assigned schools. Tax credit availability should reflect demand, not arbitrary caps.

Florida’s scholarship success stories show you don’t need to bribe your way into college. Pennsylvania should follow Florida’s lead so more students have the opportunity to pursue higher education. Students like Djeneba—or any child for that matter—shouldn’t have to get lucky to get a good education.