Education Savings Account (ESA)

UNDERSTANDING ESAs - Click for Comprehensive FAQ Sheet
COMPRENSIÓN DE ESA Haga clic para ver la hoja de preguntas frecuentes completa

What is the Student First Act?

The Student First Act makes state education funding available for Iowa K-12 students who choose to attend accredited private schools. It also provides additional funding for students who live in their district but attend private schools.

What is an Education Savings Account?
An Education Savings Account (ESA) is a deposit of public funds into government-authorized savings accounts which eligible families may use to cover tuition, fees, and other qualified education expenses at accredited private schools in Iowa. Parents who enroll their eligible children in an accredited private school will receive an estimated $7,598 per pupil for the 2023- 2024 school year. Funds are deposited into the student's ESA each year until the student graduates high school or turns 20. The remaining balance is returned to the state general fund.

Year 1: School Year 2023-2024
All entering kindergarten students
-All students enrolled in a public school
-A student enrolled in a private school with household income at or below 300% of the '23 Federal Poverty Guidelines.


Year 2: School Year 2024-25
-All entering kindergarten student
-All students enrolled in public school
-A student enrolled in private school with a household income at or below 400% of the 2024 Federal Poverty Guidelines that will be updated January 2024

Year 3: School Year 2025-26
-All K-12 students in Iowa regardless of income


Q: I believe my student(s) will qualify for an ESA. Should I still submit a TADS application too?
A: Yes! You are able to receive an ESA plus other scholarships. 

Q: My child is in a preschool program this year. Will he/she qualify for an ESA as an incoming kindergartener this fall?

A: Yes! All incoming kindergarteners are eligible for an ESA in the 23-24 school year regardless of income. ESA funds must be used for an accredited private (nonpublic) school in Iowa.

Q: If my kindergartener is eligible for an ESA in the 23-24 school year, will he/she receive a payment in his ESA again the following year when in first grade?
A: Yes. Once an ESA account is established for a student, funds will be deposited into the account each year as long as they are enrolled in an accredited private school and until the student graduates from high school or turns 20 years of age. 

Q: Once I apply for an ESA, will I need to apply each year?
A: Yes. Families are required to apply annually to remain in the program.

Q: My child is getting placed into the Transitional Kindergarten program for the 23-24 school year at Gehlen, will he/she qualify for an ESA?
A: No. ESAs are only available starting in kindergarten. The good news is there are other scholarship options available for TK students and their families.

Q: My kids are currently in a public school. Do they qualify for an ESA next school year even if we are above the income level?
A: Yes. All students who currently attend a public school and choose to enroll in an accredited private school for the 2023-2024 school year are eligible regardless of household income.

Q: Our students already attend Gehlen Catholic. When will they be eligible for an ESA?
A: ESA eligibility for students who are currently enrolled in an accredited private school is based on household income during the first two years of the program. For the 2023-2024 school year, families with household incomes at or below 300% of the federal poverty level (FPL) are eligible. The level increases to at or below 400% FPL for the 2024-2025 school year. Beginning in 2025-2026 school year, all K-12 students who already attend an accredited private school are eligible for an ESA regardless of household income.

Q: Is income eligibility based on gross income shown on our 2022 federal tax return, 2022 state tax return, or something else?
A: The ESA application process will require proof of income for families whose children are currently enrolled in an accredited private school and applying for an ESA for the 2023-2024 or 2024-2025 school years. Details regarding how applicants will verify income will be provided before the application period opens in the coming months.

Q: My children attend Gehlen Catholic and we receive tuition assistance from Monsignor Lafferty Tuition Foundation (MLTF). Are we also eligible for an ESA?
A: Yes. You can receive an ESA in addition to other tuition assistance that may be available to your family. 

Q: Our children are currently homeschooled. If we move them to a private school next year, are they eligible for an ESA?
A: Yes, they would be eligible for an ESA regardless of income as long as they are enrolled as a full-time student at an accredited private school.
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