MORE TO THE STORY: Fast Facts About the Opportunity Scholarship Program
In our latest video, we explored the school choice option in North Carolina known as the “Opportunity Scholarship Program.”
Here are some quick facts, figures and interesting tidbits about this wildly popular and rapidly expanding program.
OSP Fast Facts
- The Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) is a school choice option for eligible students from low-income families in North Carolina which began in 2014.
- The program is designed to offer:
- Scholarship money (up to $4,200) to eligible K-12 children for entry into a participating nonpublic school.
- Covers tuition and required fees at a participating nonpublic K-12 school.
- Awards up to $2,100 per student per semester ($4,200 per school year).
- Is only for low-income households and families must meet a specific income threshold to be eligible.
- Has its own funding, separate from the Education Budget, which is managed by the NC State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA). Grant money is paid directly to the school by the NCSEAA.
The program extremely popular as evidenced by the fact there have been more applicants than available grants each year since the inception of the OSP. For example, in 2013-14: 5,558 students applied. As of 2017-2018, that number has nearly doubled.
Some other OSP and growth highlights of note include:
- 2016: the NC General Assembly included expansion of the OSP in their budget.
- 2015-16: 3,682 Opportunity Scholarships were awarded totaling $13,149,842.
- 2016-17: 5,624 Opportunity
- 2017-2018: 10,829 New Applications (8,090 were eligible) and New Scholarships offered totaled 7,589.
Top 5 OSP Recipient Districts for 2018-19:
- Cumberland County 1,238 (+366)
- Mecklenburg County 1,107 (+538)
- Wake County 992 (+306)
- Guilford County 606 (+105)
- Forsyth County 449 (+90)
False Claims You Might Have Heard
Claim: The OSP mostly rich white kids.
Fact: Nope. The reality is that the OSP applicants and final scholarship recipient pool are just as diverse or even more diverse than their public school counterparts.
According to the most recent data, minorities make up roughly 52% of the applicant population; 13% identified as Hispanic.
- American Indian 2%
- Asian 2%
- Black students 35%
- White 48%
- Two or More: 13%
- No Answer 1%
The racial makeup of the actual OSP recipients shifts only slightly from that of the applicant pool, with black students at 32% and 9% for Hispanic students.
Also, the OSP is for low-income families only.
According to documentation on the program, students must meet a variety of criteria in order to be considered eligible.
Students applying for the program must meet all the following 5 requirements:
- Is 5 years old on or before August 31
- Lives in an eligible household
- Has not graduated from high school
- Is a resident of North Carolina
- Has not attended a college
Students also need to meet one of the following additional 5 requirements:
- Received an Opportunity Scholarship last year
- Was a full-time student attending an NC public school or Department of Defense school in NC last spring semester
- Is entering kindergarten or 1st grade
- Is in foster care or was adopted within the last year
- Has a parent on full-time active duty with the military
Claim: The OSP has no accountability.
Fact: Families, parents, and students commit a large amount of time in vetting potential schools for their children. Parents are the ultimate form of school choice accountability: They can keep their child at a school or they leave it.
Private schools involved in taking OPS grants must also follow certain legal criteria.
Schools participating in the program must adhere to the lengthy North Carolina state statute governing non-public schools.
Schools participating in the program also are required to test students using nationally recognized, standardized tests.
These schools must also maintain accreditation, maintain background checks on employees, and must sign a binding Participation Agreement in order to receive OSP funds.