Student enrollment in New Hampshire’s new education savings account program exceeds expectations

New Hampshire’s Education Freedom Accounts program was created to expand educational opportunities for New Hampshire children.

More than 1,600 students have enrolled in a new program crafted this year by Granite State lawmakers to give families more options for their children’s education.

New Hampshire Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut on Tuesday presented lawmakers with the latest figures on the Education Freedom Accounts program, noting that a fiscal analysis of the Department had projected about 28 students would participate in the first year.

According to the Department, 58% of students are in grades K-5. Fifty-three percent qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program. Close to 30% of students already had left their public school prior to 2020 or had never enrolled in public school. The remaining 71% either had left their public school during the pandemic or had chosen not to enroll in fall 2021.

Of students who have enrolled, 83% are white, 8% are Latino, 5% are of multiple races, 3% are Black and 1% are Asian or Pacific Islander.

The projected annual cost of the ESA program is a little over $8 million, funded with money from the Education Trust Fund, established to fund public schools in New Hampshire and reliant on a variety of state taxes. The figure represents about 1% of what the state spends annually on public schools through the Education Trust Fund.

The Education Freedom Account program is open to families who make under 300% of the federal poverty level, or $79,500 for a family of four. Families can remain in the program if their income increases above that level in future years. Funds not spent in one year can be saved for future approved expenses until the student ages out of the program.

Eligible expenses include tuition at a school of the family’s choice, tutoring, online learning programs, educational supplies, internet connectivity and other educational expenses.

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