Individuals, couples and corporations can receive a tax credit if they contribute to Georgia GOAL, a student scholarship organization that operates under the state education expense credit program. This program provides scholarships to low-income students who want to attend private schools, like First Presbyterian Christian Academy in Hinesville.
FPCA Head of School Trang Black said Liberty County residents and businesses that contribute to the program can designate FPCA as the private school of their choice, thereby keeping their dollars in the community. Otherwise, contributions are divvied up among all the private schools across Georgia. These schools then provide tuition assistance to qualified students. Individual students cannot be named by contributors for financial assistance.
FPCA awarded $5,000 last year in tuition assistance to several students, Black said. The school’s average tuition cost is $6,000, which is comparable to other private schools in the Coastal Georgia region, she said. The school would like to provide more deserving students tuition assistance, but FPCA can only distribute year-to-year whatever funds it receives from Georgia GOAL, according to Black.
“We’ve had to tighten our belts like everyone else,” she said. “But this is a way the community can help us.”
Black said FPCA, as well as scholarship students, benefits from Georgia GOAL. The students receive the education of their choice, she said, and FPCA is better able to reflect the community and increase its enrollment. FPCA serves more than 300 students and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), according to Black. The school has children in grades pre-K through 12th.
“Under the Georgia Education Expense Credit law, enacted in 2008, individuals and corporations who contribute to qualified, tax-exempt, non-profit SSOs are permitted to offset the amount of their contributions against their Georgia income-tax liability,” said Kate Saylor, Georgia GOAL director of marketing and communications. “The SSOs must use the contributions to provide scholarships to students enrolled in public schools — second grade and above — who desire to attend the accredited private school of their parents’ choice. SSOs may also award scholarships to students who are eligible to enroll in pre-K, kindergarten and first grade, regardless of whether they attend a private or public school.”
There currently are 120 private schools in Georgia that participate in the GOAL program, according to goalscholarship.org. Last year, 6,819 Georgia taxpayers contributed $15,035,842 to GOAL, according to Saylor. Of those who contributed, 6,747 were individuals and 72 were corporations, she said.
“The average value of the scholarship awarded to each student has been $3,728, with the balance of the tuition costs being paid by scholarship families together with other financial aid provided by the participating private schools,” Saylor said.
GOAL has awarded 53 percent of its scholarships to families with an average gross income of less than $24,000, according to Saylor. Thirty-six percent of GOAL scholarships have been awarded to minority recipients, she said.
The tax-credit limits for contributing to the GOAL program are as follows: single taxpayers can receive up to $1,000 in income-tax credit, married couples filing jointly can receive $2,500, and an individual with ownership in an S-corporation, LLC or partnership can receive up to $10,000. An S-corporation is a special type of corporation created through an IRS tax election, according to U.S. Small Business Administration website.
If both husband and wife earn income from pass-through entities, each can contribute up to the $10,000 limit for a total of $20,000, according to a Georgia GOAL news release.
“In 2013, the annual $58 million cap on available tax credits was reached on May 9,” Saylor said.
Black said this year the program met the cap Jan. 22.
“It was all claimed within three weeks,” she said. Black added state legislators have discussed the possibility of increasing the cap to $100 million.
FPCA has Georgia GOAL packets available if individuals or businesses are interested in contributing, and school-board members intend to promote the faith-based school to area churches, she said.