North Carolina

Education Student Accounts (ESA+)

  • Education Savings Account (ESA)
  • Enacted 2021
  • Launched 2022

North Carolina’s Personal Education Student Account for Children with Disabilities program provides families of students with special needs who meet the federal definition of a “child with disabilities” under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) an account with a maximum annual allocation of $9,000 ($17,000 for students with certain disabilities) for educational and therapeutic uses, including private school tuition. The accounts may also be used for education-related transportation. Learn more about this program’s funding, eligibility, legal history, and regulations on this page.

*Please note that this program replaces both the Personal Education Savings Account Program and the Special Education Scholarship Grants for Children with Disabilities Program through legislative action in the 2021 state budget. As part of this action, additional funding was allocated for the 2020–21 fiscal year.

We do not administer this program. 

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  • 10%

    of North Carolina Students Eligible

  • 107%

    Average Account Value as a Percentage of Public School Per-Student Spending 

  • 3,377

    Participating Students (2022-2023) 

  • $11,498

    Average Account Value (2022-2023)

North Carolina Education Savings Accounts (ESA+) Participation

Students Participating
School Year Ending

Student Funding

The North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA) awards certain students with special needs accounts that are loaded each semester with funds for qualified educational and therapeutic uses, including private school tuition. Students may attend public school part-time while receiving partial awards with a maximum value of $4,500. Students attending a non-public educational option will see accounts funded up to $9,000 per student. Additionally, students with certain disabilities such as autism, hearing impairment, moderate to severe intellectual developmental disability, orthopedic impairment, or visual impairment can qualify for aid up to $17,000 per student.

Funds may not be used for consumable education supplies such as paper and pens or tuition and fees at higher education institutions.

Starting in fiscal year 2023–24, funding will be set at $48,943,166 with a $1 million increase each subsequent year.

(Last updated December 18, 2023)

Student Eligibility

To qualify, students must have an Individualized Education Plan and be identified as having special needs under the IDEA definition of a “child with disabilities.” These include autism, an intellectual disability, a hearing or visual impairment, a speech or language impairment, a serious emotional disturbance, an orthopedic impairment, a traumatic brain injury, another health impairment, and/or a specific learning disability.

(Last updated December 18, 2023)

EdChoice Expert Feedback

North Carolina’s ESA program for students with special needs helps hundreds of students access schools that are the right fit for them, but policymakers could do much more to expand educational opportunity.

Eligibility for the ESA is limited to students in grades K–12 who have had an IEP. Only one in 10 North Carolina students are eligible for a scholarship and approximately two percent of students statewide actually use one of North Carolina’s educational choice programs (including the Opportunity Scholarship).

To expand access to educational choice, North Carolina policymakers should expand eligibility to all students.

North Carolina’s ESA program generally avoids unnecessary and counterproductive regulations.

(Last updated December 18, 2023)

Rules and Regulations

  • Income Limit: None
  • Prior Year Public School Requirement: Conditional
  • Geographic Limit: Statewide
  • Testing Mandates: National
  • Enrollment Cap: None
  • Account Cap:$9,000 ($17,000 for students with certain disabilities).
  • Limited to students with special needs

Parent Requirements:

Parent must sign an agreement to:

  • Provide an education in the subjects of English language arts, mathematics, social studies and science
  • Release the school district from all obligations to educate the student
  • ESA expenses subject to preapproval process
  • Use funds only for the qualified education expenses of the eligible student

(Last updated December 18, 2023)

Governing Statutes

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-592

(Last updated December 18, 2023)