ANNAPOLIS, MD., 01-18-18---More than 4,500 certified applications were received in the second year of Maryland’s Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Scholarship Program. The total applications indicate a more than 50 percent increase from the inaugural year of the program, according to statistics provided in a recent report issued by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). While a total of 2,646 scholarships have been awarded and accepted to date, more than 1,650 students remain waitlisted, demonstrating the high unmet demand for the program. All certified applicants and recipients were low-income, as required by the law.
In 2016, the Maryland General Assembly expanded educational options for low-income students to attend the school best fit for their educational needs by providing scholarship assistance toward attending a Catholic or nonpublic school. During the 2017 legislative session, the Maryland legislature responded to high program demand by reauthorizing the program with an increase from $5 million to $6 million for scholarships in 2017-18, which reflected a cut from the Hogan administration’s second-year budget allocation of $6.85 million. Earlier this week, Governor Hogan unveiled his 2018-19 budget and has committed nearly $9 million to the program.
More than half (58%) of new scholarship recipients attended a public school last year, representing a sizable increase in BOOST scholarship recipients who transferred from public school. The increase reflects the legislature’s intent to give priority to applications for new scholarships submitted by students coming from public schools, as well as a greater awareness of the program in the public school community. Overall, scholarships awarded to students seeking to transfer from public school increased from 21% in 2016-17 to 34% for 2017-18. Low-income public school students also received the majority of scholarship expenditures. More than $3.7 million in program dollars were awarded to public school students for 2017-18, representing 61% of program expenditures, a marked increase from the $2.25 million ultimately awarded to public school students in 2016-17.
Under the BOOST program, students transferring from public school received a maximum of $4,400 in scholarship assistance, and students already attending a nonpublic school received a maximum of $1,400 in assistance. While state scholarship funding increased through the BOOST program, data from the MSDE report indicates that nonpublic schools also continued to increase the tuition assistance they provided to low-income students for the last two years in order to supplement the assistance provided through BOOST scholarships. According to the MSDE report, the average amount of non-BOOST aid received by BOOST recipients increased by more than $200 for the 2017-18 school year, for an average of $4,535 per student.
BOOST-recipient families collectively reported an average household income of just $25,123. A majority of student-recipients were minorities (63%), encompassing 40% African-American, 14% Latino, and 9% other minority students. Additionally, the 2017-18 BOOST program has increasingly enabled Catholic and other nonpublic schools to further their mission of opening their doors to students from the immigrant and first-generation American communities, as 744 student-recipients were reported as English Language Learners (ELLs). English Language Learners made up 33% of BOOST recipients reported.
Geographically, BOOST scholarships awarded to students from two of Maryland’s largest jurisdictions represented nearly 50% of program expenditures. Students attending schools in Baltimore City received the highest amount of total program funds (34.1% or just over $2 million), followed by students in Prince George’s County (15.6% or just under $1 million). However, BOOST scholarship recipients continue to hail from every corner of the state, with recipients in 21 of the 24 Maryland jurisdictions.
In order to participate in the BOOST program, nonpublic schools were required to report on student assessments. The State Department of Education cautioned that the assessment results “should be interpreted with caution”, particularly because they did not reflect a common assessment and, therefore, were not comparable across schools. The inconsistency of the assessment data and lack of a norm-referenced basis of comparison for the data collection is a recognized weakness in the program, and the Catholic school community welcomes improvements to the program that will provide a more meaningful measure of academic progress and other aspects of students’ success in the program. That being said, based on the reported data in the Department’s report, standardized test proficiency was comparatively high. For example, in Baltimore City, overall standardized test proficiency for BOOST recipients was well above average at nearly 70%.
According to Dr. Patrick J. Wolf, Distinguished Professor of Education Policy at the University of Arkansas, “it normally takes three to four years for students who transition schools under a state-funded scholarship program to demonstrate achievement gains from the program. The first few years tend to be an adjustment period for the students to their new schooling environment. The schools also need to adjust to serving larger populations of disadvantaged children.”
In summary, the families of more than 2,600 low-income Maryland students of varying race, creed and nationality from throughout the state of Maryland have been empowered to make the educational choice that they deem is best fit for their child, including almost 900 students who have transitioned from public school over the past two years. Overall, the MSDE report indicates that the profound impact of the BOOST Scholarship Program on the lives of low-income students statewide has grown considerably in the program’s second year.
2017-18 BOOST STUDENTS NUMBER PERCENTAGES
CERTIFIED APPLICANTS 4,531 50% increase over 2016-17
MINORITY RECIPIENTS 1,665 63% of all recipients
TOTAL PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENT RECIPIENTS 890 34% of all recipients
NEW PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENT RECIPIENTS 548 58% of new recipients
ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS 744 33% of reported recipients
THE DOLLARS and CENTS:
2017-18 CATEGORY AMOUNT
SCHOLARSHIP DOLLARS AWARDED $6,032,400
SCHOLARSHIP DOLLARS AWARDED TO LOW-INCOME STUDENTS 100%
SCHOLARSHIP DOLLARS AWARDED TO STUDENTS WHO TRANSFERRED FROM PUBLIC SCHOOL $3.706 million, representing more than 61% of scholarship dollars awarded
AVERAGE RECIPIENT HOUSEHOLD INCOME, ALL RECIPIENTS $25,123
AVERAGE RECIPIENT HOUSEHOLD INCOME FREE-MEALS-ELIGIBLE PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS $18,375