Rhode Island’s tax-credit scholarship program, enacted in 2006 and launched in 2007, offers a 75 percent tax credit to businesses that donate to Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs). SGOs are nonprofits that offer private school scholarships of varying amounts to students from low-income households. Learn more about this tax-credit scholarship program’s funding, eligibility, regulations, and governing statutes on this page.
503 students participating (2015)
38 percent of families with children income-eligible statewide
Five scholarship organizations awarding scholarships (2014)
41 schools participating (2015)
Average scholarship value: $3,024 (2015)
Value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 28 percent
Rhode Island offers tax credits to businesses supporting Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs), nonprofits that provide private school scholarships.
Scholarship amounts are determined by SGOs.
Tax credits are worth 75 percent of the contribution, or 90 percent if donated for two consecutive years and the second year’s donation is worth at least 80 percent of the first year’s donation. The total amount of tax credits is capped at $1.5 million. Each corporate donor can receive only $100,000 in tax credits each year, and cannot use surplus donations in one year to generate tax credits in future years.
Students must have family incomes at or below 250 percent of the poverty level ($60,625 for a family of four in 2015–16).
Rhode Island’s $1.5 million cap for available funding is extremely low when compared with demand. Only about one-third of potential donors have been able to participate in any given year. SGOs have the ability to determine their own student funding amounts, which is a plus; however, the overall cap on tax credits severely limits the potential and overall scope of those scholarships. The 75 percent deduction if donating for one year or 90 percent if donating for two years offers an attractive opportunity for corporations to continue supporting the program. And private school regulation is kept to a minimum: Schools must comply with health, safety, and nondiscrimination laws, employ teachers with bachelor’s degrees, and conduct teacher background checks. The program could serve more children if the overall cap were increased or an escalator clause, similar to Florida’s, were added to allow the program to grow to match demand.
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.