North Carolina

Opportunity Scholarships

  • Voucher
  • Enacted 2013
  • Launched 2014

North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship program provides private school vouchers to K-12 students. Families can use these school vouchers to pay for tuition, transportation, equipment and other necessary private school expenses. All students are eligible, but the program has a budget cap. Learn more about this program’s eligibility requirements, rules and regulations on this page.

We do not administer this program.

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  • 32,511

    Participating Students (2023-24)

  • 100%

    100% Children Eligible (Fall 2024)

  • 10th

    State Offering Universal Private Choice

  • 544

    Participating Schools (2022-23)

  • $5,266

    Average Voucher Value (2022–23)

  • 50%

    Value as a Percentage of Public School Per-student Spending

North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program Participation

Students Participating
School Year

Student Funding

The maximum voucher amount allowed is 100 percent of the average per pupil state K-12 allocation based on the prior fiscal year, not to exceed the private school’s actual tuition and fees. Awards are up to $7,213 for the 2023-2024 school year. This maximum amount is reserved for students from families earning at or below the federal free and reduced-price lunch (FRL) program ($55,500 for a family of four in 2023–24). Families earning above this threshold receive lesser amounts in graduated tiers. See the schedule below:

Household Income Level Maximum Voucher Amount
100% FRL and below 100% average state funding
100% FRL to 200% FRL 90% average state funding
200% FRL to 450% FRL 60% average state funding
450% FRL and up 45% average state funding

The vouchers may be used for tuition and fees for transportation, books, equipment, or other items required by qualifying private schools. Beginning in 2024–25, funding will be appropriated at $191,540,000. In 2025-26, funding jumps to $415,540,000 and increases yearly by $15,000,000.

(Last updated December 18, 2023)

Student Eligibility

All students are eligible to receive vouchers, with students from lower-income households receiving the highest voucher amounts. A child who is the age of 4 on or before April 16 is eligible to attend the following school year if the principal, or equivalent, of the school in which the child seeks to enroll finds that the student meets the state’s enrollment requirements.

(Last updated December 18, 2023)

EdChoice Expert Feedback

North Carolina’s voucher program helps tens of thousands of students access schools that are the right fit for them. In 2023, policymakers took the massive step of expanding to universal eligibility, meaning many more could soon benefit.

For school year 2022-2023, roughly two percent of students statewide actually use one of North Carolina’s two educational choice programs (including the Personal Education Savings Accounts).

The average voucher value is nearly $5,300, which is about half of the average expenditure per student at North Carolina’s district schools.

The program also has a provision that provides higher education scholarships for students to attend an in-state college or university, provided they graduate high school in three years instead of four.

Although eligibility is universal, the budget cap will allow up to approximately 100,000 students to participate. In order to expand educational choice access even more for families, North Carolina policymakers should expand lift the cap so all students are funded eligible. The program could also be converted to an education savings account.

North Carolina’s voucher program contains testing requirements and test reporting for private schools, along with a requirement for the department of education to conduct a comparative outcomes report. Otherwise, the program generally avoids unnecessary and counterproductive regulations.

(Last updated December 18, 2023)

Rules and Regulations

  • Income Limit: None
  • Prior Year Public School Requirement: None
  • Geographic Limit: Statewide
  • Enrollment Cap: None
  • Budget Cap: $415 million (2025–26) / $15 million per year escalator
  • Voucher Cap: 100 percent of the average per pupil state K-12 allocation based on the prior fiscal year for 100% FRL, and descending amounts for students with higher household incomes.
  • Testing Mandates: Nationally norm-referenced tests

School Requirements:

  • Not discriminate with respect to the categories listed in 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, as that statute read on January 1, 2014
  • Comply with health and safety requirements
  • 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 that accept students who receive more than $300,000 in voucher grants

(Last updated December 18, 2023)

Governing Statutes

N.C. Rev. Stat. §§ 115C-562.1 through 562.8

(Last updated December 18, 2023)