DES MOINES, Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds announced via social media on Friday that in less than 72 hours, over 10,000 applications were submitted to receive a Students First Education Savings Account (ESA).
“The response to the Students First ESA program has been overwhelming – showing how hungry Iowans are for Educational Freedom!,” she tweeted.
The application period began at 8:00 am last Wednesday.
During the first year, all incoming kindergarteners and all public-school students and private school students with household incomes at or below 300% of the federal poverty level (FPL), currently $83,250 for a family of four, are eligible for an ESA for the 2023-2024 school year. Universal eligibility will be phased in over three years.
Parents or guardians who enroll their eligible children in an accredited private school will receive an amount equal to the per pupil funds allocated by the state to all public school districts each year. The funds are estimated at $7,598 per pupil for the 2023-2024 school year and will be deposited into an education savings account to be used for tuition, fees, and other qualified education expenses.
Odyssey, the vendor responsible for managing the application processing, identity verification, payment processing, fraud prevention, and customer service for the Students First Education Accounts program, noted that on average, one application was submitted every 12 seconds in the first 24 hours. They also stated that Wednesday’s launch also marked the first time any ESA program across the country used an automated approval process for applicants, enabling the successful verification of applicants’ residency, income, and identification within seconds rather than weeks. The average wait time on Odyssey’s help line was only 90 seconds.
“We are honored to help bring the Iowa Students First program to life for Iowans across the state,” said Joe Connor, a former teacher and the CEO and founder of Odyssey. “We are committed to working closely with the Governor’s office, Iowa Department of Education, Iowa Department of Revenue, and Iowa Office of the Chief Information Officer to ensure the quick and accurate distribution of funds to families, and real-time insight into the program’s effectiveness to ensure it continues to deliver on behalf of Iowans. We were excited that our first in the nation automated approval gave near real-time results to Iowa families.”
The application period for the 2023-2024 school year will end on June 30, 2023 at 11:59 pm. Interested parents or guardians of students who are eligible can learn more at the Iowa Department of Education’s website.