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North Carolina – Opportunity Scholarships


North Carolina – Opportunity Scholarships

North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarships program was enacted in 2013 and launched in 2014. It provides private school vouchers to children of low-income households. Families can use these school vouchers to pay for tuition, transportation, equipment, and other necessary private school expenses. Learn more about this program’s eligibility requirements, rules, and regulations on this page.

Program Fast Facts

  • 2,522 participating students (2015–16)

  • 43 percent of families with children income-eligible statewide

  • 263 participating schools (2015–16)

  • Average voucher value: $4,009 (Projected 2015–16)

  • Value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 48 percent

Program Details

North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program Participation

Students Participating
School Year

Click the + symbols to learn more about this program’s details.

North Carolina provides vouchers to low-income students to attend private schools chosen by their parents.

Student Funding

The maximum voucher amount allowed is $4,200, not to exceed the private school’s actual tuition and fees. The vouchers may be used for tuition, transportation, equipment, or any other items required by qualifying private schools. Total funding was increased to $17.6 million in 2015–16 and up to $24.8 million in 2016–17, a 129 percent increase over 2014–15 funding levels.

Student Eligibility

Students are eligible to receive vouchers if their family income does not exceed 133 percent of the guidelines needed to qualify for the federal free and reduced-price lunch (FRL) program ($59,668 for a family of four in 2015–16). Students must also have been attending a public school during the previous semester. Kindergartners, first graders, foster children, and children that have been adopted in the past year qualify for vouchers without having to attend a public school.

Rules and Regulations

  • Income Limit: 133 percent x FRL
  • Prior Year Public School Requirement: Conditional
  • Geographic Limit: Statewide
  • Enrollment Cap: None
  • Voucher Cap: $4,200
  • Testing Mandates: National
  • School Requirements:
    • Meet state nondiscrimination policies
    • Comply with health and safety requirements
    • Be accredited by the state board of education, a national or regional accrediting agency, or an active member of the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools, or receive no funding from state government
    • Provide the state with documentation for tuition and fees charged
    • Conduct criminal background check on staff member with highest decision-making authority
    • Provide parents with an annual written explanation of the student’s progress, including scores on standardized achievement tests
    • Annually administer a nationally standardized test to voucher students and provide the test results to the state
    • Provide graduation rates of voucher students to the state
    • Contract with a certified public accountant to perform a financial review for schools accepting students receiving more than $300,000 in voucher grants

Governing Statutes

N.C. Rev. Stat. §§ 115C-562.1 through 562.7

Legal History

On July 23, 2015, the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld all aspects of the state’s two vouchers, the Opportunity Scholarship Program and the Special Education Scholarship Grants for Children with Disabilities, as constitutional. Hart v. North Carolina; Richardson v. North Carolina.

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