Florida scholarship programs set new records as enrollment soars

The 2022-23 school year got off to a strong start for education choice scholarships in the Sunshine State, with several programs seeing record-breaking enrollment.

Overall, more than 240,000 scholarships were funded, a 26% growth over the prior school year. Step Up For Students, the state-approved nonprofit scholarship funding organizations that helps administer the scholarships, awarded more than 200,000 scholarships for the first time.

Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, operates five scholarship programs on behalf of the state, including the income-based Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and Family Empowerment Scholarship for Educational Opportunity; the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities; the Hope Scholarship for public school students who have been bullied; and the New Worlds Reading Scholarship Accounts for public school students in grades K-5 who struggle with reading.

Students who qualify for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Educational Opportunity also may apply for transportation scholarships to attend a different public school.

Florida scholarship enrollment 2022-23

Several scholarship programs hit new milestones.

The Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities program eclipsed more than 50,000 students for the first time. Enrollment grew by 131% after the program absorbed the McKay Scholarship for students with special needs. The Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities is the largest education savings account program in the nation. Of its total enrollment, more than 30,000 students were enrolled in a private school.

Combined, the income-based scholarships (Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and Family Empowerment Scholarship for Educational Opportunity) also saw record enrollment with 180,460 students served so far in 2022-23.  The average student on these programs lives in a household of four earning less than $43,000 a year. Sixty-nine percent of students are non-white, and 51% live in single-parent households.

Of the students on the income-based scholarship programs, nearly 100,000 qualified through government needs-based programs such as food stamps; 8,072 are military dependents; 5,401 are dependents of law enforcement officers; 2,716 are siblings of students on the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities; and 499 are in foster care.