Student Eligibility & Education Expenses Scholarships
Who qualifies as an eligible student?
In order to qualify as an “eligible student,” a student must satisfy certain income, residential, and enrollment requirements.
- A student must have a family household income that is not in excess of 300 percent of the current poverty guidelines or 400 percent of federal poverty guidelines if the student is an eligible student with a disability. "Eligible student with a disability" means a student for whom an individualized educational program has been written and finalized in accordance with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), regulations promulgated pursuant to IDEA, and regulations of the Board of Education.
- A student must be a resident of Virginia. A “resident of Virginia” means that the student meets the requirements of Section 22.1-3 of the Code of Virginia, for admission to a Virginia public school.
- A student must satisfy one of the following criteria:
- in the current school year has enrolled and attended a public school in Virginia for at least one-half of the year,
- for the school year that immediately preceded receipt of a scholarship was enrolled and attended a public school in Virginia for at least one-half of the year,
- is a prior recipient of a scholarship foundation scholarship,
- is eligible to enter kindergarten or first grade, or
- for the school year that immediately preceded receipt of a scholarship was domiciled in a state other than Virginia and did not attend a nonpublic school in Virginia for more than one-half of the school year.
How does a student apply for a scholarship?
An eligible student seeking an education expenses scholarship under the Education Improvement Scholarship Tax Credits Program must apply to one of the approved scholarship foundations. The contact information for each approved scholarship foundation is provided in the list of approved scholarship foundations. Note: the Virginia Department of Education does NOT provide direct scholarship aid to students attending a private school in Virginia.
What is the maximum scholarship amount a student can receive?
Under the law, the aggregate amount of scholarships provided to each eligible student for any single school year by all eligible scholarship foundations from eligible donations may not exceed the lesser of: (i) the actual qualified educational expenses of the student, or (ii) 100 percent of the per pupil amount distributed to the school division (in which the student resides) as the state's share of the Standards of Quality (SOQ) costs.
A “School year” means the period of time between the opening day of school in the fall and the closing day of school for that school term that is at minimum 180 teaching days or 990 teaching hours. See “regular school year.”
“Qualified education expenses” means school-related tuition and instructional fees and materials, including textbooks, workbooks, and supplies used solely for school-related work.
Below are examples of how a scholarship foundation is to award education expenses scholarships without exceeding the cost to educate a student at the private school or the SOQ amount, whichever is less.
Example 1: The educational expenses for the school year to educate a student at Private School A total $15,000. The SOQ cost for the school district in which the student resides is $5,000. The maximum scholarship amount that can be awarded to the student at Private School A in quarterly or semester payments cannot exceed $5,000.
Example 2: The educational expenses for the school year to educate a student at Private School B total $4,500. The SOQ cost for the school district in which the student resides is $5,000. The maximum scholarship amount that can be awarded to the student at Private School B in quarterly or semester payments cannot exceed $4,500.
The SOQ amounts for each school division are calculated after the General Assembly passes the budget, and are usually not available until the late spring or early summer prior to the start of the school year.
How are scholarship funds required to be paid?
Under the law, the scholarship foundation is required to make scholarship payments on behalf of the qualified student to the private school. In order to allow the scholarships to be portable, the scholarships are required to be disbursed by the scholarship foundation in semester or quarterly installments.
What happens to the scholarship funds if a student transfers to another private school or to a public school?
If a student leaves a private school to enroll at another private school in Virginia, any unpaid quarterly or semester amounts must be used by the scholarship foundation to pay for the same student’s education expenses at the new private school.
In the event that a student enrolled in a private school leaves to enroll in a public school, any unpaid quarterly or semester amounts must be used by the scholarship foundation to provide a scholarship to another eligible student attending an eligible private school within the disbursement period (read below).
When are tax credit-derived donations required to be disbursed in the form of education expenses scholarships?
An approved scholarship foundation is required to disburse at least 90 percent of the tax credit-derived donations it receives between July 1 and June 30, by the immediately following June 30, in the form of scholarships for qualified education expenses to eligible students attending a non-public school in Virginia. Tax-credit-derived funds not used for education expenses scholarships may only be used for administrative expenses related to the EISTC program (salaries, supplies, computer software, etc.).
Under the law, a scholarship foundation that fails to disburse at least 90 percent of any donated amount within the appropriate 24-month period ending on June 30, will be subject the following penalties:
- First offense – a civil penalty equal to 200 percent of the difference between 90 percent of the donated amount and the amount that was actually disbursed, remitted to DOE within 30 days after the end of the one-year period.
- Second offense within a five year period – the scholarship foundation will be removed from the list of approved scholarship foundations, prohibited from requesting a preauthorized amount of tax credits on behalf of the donor, and prohibited from receiving and administering additional tax credit-derived funds for two years. After two years, the scholarship foundation may reapply to DOE to become an approved scholarship foundation and receive and administer tax credit-derived funds. If a scholarship foundation is authorized by DOE to be added to the list of approved scholarship foundations, the applicant scholarship foundation will not be considered to have any previous offenses.