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Opportunity ‘knocks’ again

RALEIGH – Opportunity is knocking one more time.

Funds allocated in 2016 by the North Carolina General Assembly are available for parents/guardians who are searching for alternative education avenues for their children now enrolled in public school.

The Opportunity Scholarship Program, which offers up to $4,200 per child in tuition assistance for eligible families, is administered through the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA).

The application period for the 2018-19 school year opened Feb. 1.

All Opportunity Scholarship Program applications that meet the eligibility criteria and are submitted by midnight on March 1, 2018 will be entered into a lottery. Recipients are randomly selected from that pool of applications. If a parent includes more than one child on the application, the parent’s name will be entered once in the lottery. If the parent’s name is selected, all eligible children included on that parent’s application are eligible for funding. Eligible applicants who apply after March 1, 2018 will be added to the waitlist, and will be considered if funding remains.

The Opportunity Scholarship Program expands school choice in North Carolina through scholarship grants for eligible children in kindergarten through 12th grade. This program provides funding of up to $4,200 per year for eligible children who choose to attend a participating nonpublic school.

There is a two-part eligibility standard enrolling in the program. Part 1 requires that an eligible new student must be at least 5-years-old; live in an eligible household; has not yet graduated from high school; is a resident of North Carolina; and has not been in college.

Part 2 requires an eligible student to meet one of the following requirements:

Received an Opportunity Scholarship last year;

Was a full-time student attending a NC public school or Department of Defense school in North Carolina last spring semester;

Is entering kindergarten or first grade;

Is in foster care or was adopted within the last year; or

Has a parent on full-time active duty with the military.

There are household income eligibility guidelines for those seeking to enroll a child in a private institution using an Opportunity Scholarship. A family of two (parent/child) can earn $30,451 in annual gross income and receive the maximum scholarship ($4,200). They can earn up to (but not exceed) $40,500 annually and receive 90 percent of the scholarship amount.

Other examples of income eligibility are:

Family of 3 – earn up to $38,443 for a full scholarship; up to $51,129 for a 90% scholarship;

Family of 4 – earn up to $46,435 for a full scholarship; up to $61,759 for a 90% scholarship;

Family of 5 – earn up to $54,427 for a full scholarship; up to $72,388 for a 90% scholarship; and

Family of 6 – earn up to $62,419 for a full scholarship; up to $83,017 for a 90% scholarship.

For the current school year (2017-18) there were 10,578 new applications, of which 6,997 were deemed eligible. Of those, 5,799 new Opportunity Scholarships were offered, and 2,809 were accepted.

Independent schools in the Roanoke-Chowan area have welcomed Opportunity Scholarship students since its beginning. This year, Northeast Academy in Lasker leads that list with 30 students. Lawrence Academy in Merry Hill has 17 students enrolled by this program; Halifax Academy in Roanoke Rapids has 15; Ahoskie Christian School has 13; Hobgood Academy has 11; Ridgecroft School of Ahoskie has eight; and Bethel Assembly Christian Academy in Askewville currently enrolls four Opportunity Scholarship students.

Trinity Christian School in Fayetteville has the most students (201) enrolled by this program for the 2017-18 academic year.

Once an Opportunity Scholarship is awarded, it remains with that child through high school graduation, contingent upon eligibility requirements being maintained (the parent/guardian must update their applications annually). The scholarship is also transferrable in the event a family relocates or chooses another qualified private school.

To learn more about the program or to fill out an application for 2018-19, visit www.ncseaa.edu.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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