The Florida Tax Credit (FTC) scholarship program, the nation’s largest private school choice program, provides more than 100,000 scholarships annually that can be used to enroll in participating private schools. This study finds that students who enroll in private school through the FTC program are more likely to go to and graduate from college than their public school peers.
A 2017 Urban Institute report found that students who participated in the FTC program at any point in their academic careers were more likely to enroll in Florida colleges and were slightly more likely to graduate than students who did not participate. The effects on enrollment, however, were largely at the community college level, and the effects on degree attainment were slight, with no effect at the bachelor’s degree level.
In this brief, we use National Student Clearinghouse data to look at student enrollment in any in-state or out-of-state, public or private college. Comparing FTC students with demographically and academically similar students who remained in public schools, we find the following:
- Fifty-seven percent of FTC students enrolled in college, compared with 51 percent of non-FTC students. This is a 12 percent increase.
- FTC students had higher college-going rates in all sectors: two-year, four-year public, and four-year private colleges. Additionally, FTC participants were more likely to attend college full time.
- Of students who first entered the FTC program in grades 8–10, 12 percent earned a bachelor’s degree, compared with 10 percent of non-FTC students. Associate’s degree attainment rates were similar for both groups. Among students who first entered the FTC program in grades 3–7, 10 percent earned bachelor’s degrees, compared with 9 percent of non-FTC students, and 9 percent earned associate’s degrees, compared with 8 percent of non-FTC students.
- The FTC program’s impact on both enrollment and degree attainment increases with the number of years of FTC participation.
These results are consistent with our earlier findings that the country’s largest private school choice program, which enrolls largely low-income students from low-income schools, has a positive effect on college-going and graduation rates. It does not, however, tell us what makes a private school choice program work or which students benefit most. We must continue to study private school choice to better understand what works, when, and why.
This brief is part of a series of studies looking at the effects of private school choice programs on the rates at which students go to and graduate from college. Read the reports here.