- Learn More
- Why are Lifeline Scholarships/PASS Limited to 15% of Students?
- What are Tax Credit Scholarships?
- What Is the Difference Between an EITC and OSTC?
- Am I Guaranteed a Scholarship?
- Step-by-Step Guide for Parents
The Commonwealth Foundation supports expanding educational opportunities for Pennsylvania families and students. Moreover, the Commonwealth Foundation strives to empower families and students to choose the academic path that best meets their unique needs and sets them up to succeed.
Here, you will find information about educational programs and resources supported by the Commonwealth Foundation. But, more importantly, you’ll learn how to get involved, advocate for, and expand educational opportunities for Pennsylvania youth.
Get involved, share your passion, tell us your story, and support our next generation of learners and achievers.
What are Lifeline Scholarships/PASS?
The proposed Lifeline Scholarship/PASS Program offers an Education Opportunity Account (EOA) to any student residing in a school ranked in the bottom 15 percent of performance according to state PSSA tests. This account is a restricted-use account funded with state tax dollars. The account funds must be for “qualified education expenses,” which include:
- Tuition, fees, and uniforms.
- Curriculum, textbooks, or other instructional materials.
- Fees for tutoring or other teaching services.
- Fees for a nationally norm-referenced test, advanced placement or similar examination, or standardized examination required for admission to an institution of higher education, and career and technical education examination fees.
- Hardware, software, and Internet connectivity associated with instruction.
- Fees for special instruction or therapies for students with a disability.
- Costs associated with evaluation and identification of special needs.
- Other valid educational expenses approved by the treasury department.
Why are Lifeline Scholarships/PASS Limited to 15% of Students?
Among the bottom 15 percent, less than one-in-ten students is proficient in math, and only one-quarter are proficient in English. In 40 of these schools, zero students could do math at grade level. The proposed Lifeline Scholarships/PASS extend immediate relief to students in these lowest-performing public schools. The scholarships directly fund students—not institutions—so students can choose the education that best fits their needs.
What are Tax Credit Scholarships?
Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) are state tax credit programs that give students access to high-quality schools of their choice. Businesses and individuals can fund K–12 student scholarships while receiving 75 percent to 90 percent (for two-year commitments) of their donation to a scholarship organization (SO) as a state tax credit. Scholarship organizations work with schools to provide financial aid to families looking for a way to afford private education. Over 63,000 Pennsylvania students in all 67 counties can attend private schools because of tax credit scholarships.
What Is the Difference Between an EITC and OSTC?
Both programs provide scholarships for private education, but the programs have different eligibility limits. Pennsylvanian students are eligible for an EITC scholarship if their household incomes are less than $105,183 plus $18,514 for each child. The household income baseline adjusts upwards for special needs children. Children are eligible for an OSTC scholarship must also live in a “low-achieving” school zone, whose public schools are ranked in the bottom 15 percent according to statewide assessments. A list of low-achieving schools is available from the State Department of Education.
Am I Guaranteed a Scholarship?
No. Caps on the tax credits limit the amount of total donations. As of last fiscal year, 76,000 student scholarship applications were turned away, and the state waitlisted $156.3 million in tax-credited donations.
Step-by-Step Guide for Parents
The Lifeline Scholarship/PASS program is a legislative proposal that has not been approved by the General Assembly or the Governor. Pennsylvania families do have access to a variety of public and private education options including charter school, cyber charter school, homeschooling, and private schools with the opportunity to apply for scholarships funded with the tax credit programs described above.
The State Department of Education provides a list of all licensed or accredited schools in the state, which is searchable by location. Parents should contact the school they are interested in attending for more information on eligibility and financial aid. Charter and cyber schools are free to attend, however many charter schools have waiting lists with recipients selected through a lottery. Private schools offer customized financial aid packages based on income. Most schools open applications for financial aid around the beginning of the calendar year until early spring in advance of the coming school year. If you are interested in sending your child to a private school, you should contact the school at least 6 months before the school year begins.