Number of students participating in Florida scholarship programs continues to rise

The number of Florida students participating in income-based scholarship programs served by Step Up For Students over the past 12 years has grown dramatically, from 34,561 in 2010-11, to 162,518 in 2021-22, according to a new report by Step Up For Students, the nonprofit scholarship funding organization that helps administer the scholarships and which hosts this blog.

The largest increase in Step Up students occurred between 2020-21 and 2021-22, however this was due to Step Up taking over stewardship of enrollment numbers of the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Education Options (FES-EO), a program that had previously been administered by the Florida Department of Education. Statewide enrollment for income-based scholarships increased from 142,716 to 162,518 when all sources of enrollment are included.

In the most recent year, a total of $1,715,159,524 was awarded to families from Step Up.

The annual end-of-year report looked at characteristics of private schools and enrolled students who received a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship or a Family Empowerment Scholarship for Educational Options through Step Up For Students, examining the distribution of private schools by various attributes and calculating graduation rates for 12th grade scholarship students enrolled in these schools.

Additionally, the report analyzed student demographics both in overall program enrollment and graduation rates.

Among the findings:

  • At the end of the 2021-22 school year, 2,045 Florida private schools were serving 162,518 Florida Tax Credit and Family Empowerment Scholarship for Educational Options students.
  • The average Florida Tax Credit Scholarship was $7,136.21, while the average Family Empowerment Scholarship for Education Options was $7,272.35.
  • Slightly more female students (51%) than male students participated in the scholarship programs.
  • More Hispanic students participated – 38% – than any other ethnicity/race.
  • Twenty-seven percent of the participants were Black and 29% were white.
  • About 61% of private schools identified as religious, though 80% of scholarship students attended a religious school. Non-denominational schools made up the largest group (36%), followed by Catholic schools (20%) and Baptist schools (18%).
  • Among students who were enrolled in 12th grade during the 2021-22 school year, 4,581 or 90% of all students included in the analysis graduated from a private school. The graduation rate in religious schools was higher than in non-religious schools. Asian, white, and multiracial students had the highest graduation rates.
  • Students from single-parent households saw an 87% graduation rate, compared to 94% for two-parent households.
  • The most impoverished students had slightly lower graduation rates than those residing in higher-income households.

The graduation portion of the report was modeled after the National Center for Education Statistics’ biennial report, “Characteristics of Private Schools in the United States: Results from the 2019-2020 Private School Universe Survey.”

Data from the Florida Department of Education were utilized to examine these private schools along with data collected by Step Up For Students through school surveys. Data on religious affiliation were collected at the school level. Information about students’ gender, race/ethnicity, grade, single parent household status, poverty level, and graduation status were collected at the student level.

The survey received a 92.4% response rate.



*Edited to clarify that part of the growth in scholarships awarded by Step Up For Students was due to administrative changes in the FES-EO scholarship.

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BY reimaginED staff

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