For the parents of low-income students, Children’s Scholarship Fund Philadelphia offers an opportunity to circumvent the public school system.
The privately funded program is helping school-aged children who live in Philadelphia access nearly 200 private and parochial schools across the region.
The Fund is the largest provider of scholarships in the state, for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, and the online application, now open through March 1, 2015, is free and simple to use.
Families are not required to document their incomes on the application, for example, and the process is intended to take only a few minutes.
“We want to make it accessible and not have families get locked out at the gate,” said Ina Lipman, the executive director of Children’s Scholarship Fund Philadelphia.
“Change is really hard for a lot of people, so it’s good to actively encourage families to think about their [education] options and not throw out the hurdles up front.”
After the application period ends in March, a randomized lottery selects the winning families, who will receive up to 75 percent of tuition costs, or a maximum of $2,350, to attend the private school of their choice.
Once a family is enrolled in the program, up to three children are eligible for the four-year scholarships, meaning each household can receive $7,000 each year.
Children age out of the program after eighth grade. Ninety-six percent of scholarship awardees graduate from high school on time, and 85 percent pursue higher education, according to the organization.
Earlier this month, the Scholarship Fund raised $4.1 million to award an additional 2,000 scholarships in 2015. Fifty-four hundred children are currently enrolled in the program.
“We’re just one part of the education landscape that is helping kids, but now we have urgency driving us,” Lipman said. “It’s not okay to wait five or ten years, something has to be done today.”
Children’s Scholarship Fund Philadelphia, part of a national network, is the second-largest of 35 affiliates. It has benefitted from diverse corporate and foundation support.
For the Fund’s many donors, “it’s all about the children, not egos,” Lipman added. “That’s so important in terms of moving the needle forward. We’re all about what’s working.”
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