Local private schools anticipate increase in enrollment with voucher expansion

Local private schools have increased their enrollment in recent years, but voucher expansion is expected to continue that trend.

Three local private high schools said they are seeing an increase in students applying to their schools following Ohio’s financial eligibility expansion for EdChoice vouchers in the latest state budget.

The EdChoice program allows Ohio families to use state dollars to pay for private school tuition at eligible schools.

The EdChoice voucher portal at the state level is open, but not all schools are still accepting students. Students have to be accepted at the high school before their families can apply for EdChoice dollars.

Local impact

Alter High School principal Lourdes Lambert said Alter has already seen an increase in applications for this upcoming school year, and she said she expects to see more of an impact in the 2024-2025 school year as families know more about the program.

“We have probably enrolled 10 new students in the past few weeks, and we are able to continue to accept students,” she said.

Alter has the fewest EdChoice students of the three Montgomery County Catholic high schools, with 120 students reported attending the school with state funding in 2022-2023.

Carroll High School, which enrolled 322 students through EdChoice last school year, according to state data, also expects to see an increase in the number of students when their application process reopens.

Michael Franz, spokesman for Carroll High School, said interest from new students hasn’t gone up yet, but the admissions process for new freshmen starts in the fall.

“We are expecting increased interest but do not have an estimate on how many applications we will receive due to the EdChoice expansion,” he said.

Spokeswoman Tina Wagoner said the application process at Chaminade Julienne High School opens in September.

According to Ohio Department of Education data, 425 CJ students used an EdChoice scholarship to attend the downtown Dayton high school last school year. The state paid CJ about $2.9 million in EdChoice scholarships to CJ in 2021-2022.

What’s changing

Under the new budget, students whose family make up to 450% of the poverty line — $135,000 for a family of four — can get a full voucher under income guidelines. Previous income guidelines included anyone who made up to 250% of the poverty line.

Above the 450% level, students can receive a percentage of the full scholarship, prorated based on their family’s income. The minimum percentage a student can get is 10% of the scholarships.

The amount of money the student could receive also increased by 12%, which was the same percentage by which traditional public school funding increased. A high school voucher is worth up to $8,407, and kindergarten through eighth grade students can get up to $6,165.

Those amounts go into effect this school year, so students who are already attending schools on vouchers will get up to those amounts, depending on their eligibility and the school’s tuition. EdChoice pays either the full voucher amount or the school’s tuition, whichever is lower.

The median income in Ohio is $61,938, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and the median household income in Montgomery County is $56,543.

What else to know

The Ohio EdChoice Scholarship goes directly to the parents, said Lacey Snoke, Ohio Department of Education spokeswoman, and is not a tax exemption for either the school or the family.

“Payments are made 10 times a year with the check made out to both the parent and the school,” Snoke said. “Parents control the use of the scholarship and can transfer their child to another participating school.”

EdChoice dollars can only be used on tuition. Items like school fees, books, uniforms and sports fees cannot be paid for with EdChoice dollars.

Any application submitted after Oct. 14 will be awarded at a prorated amount based on how much of the school year remains after the date of the student’s enrollment in the private school, ODE said.

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