By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published February 9, 2017
ATLANTA—Grace Scholars topped its record for preregistrations for tax credits in January.
Donors committed to giving $6 million to the nonprofit Catholic student scholarship organization. The previous donation record was about $5.5 million in 2016, according to Grace Scholars.
David Brown, the executive director of Grace Scholars, credited the boost in contributions to the work of Catholic school administrators in Georgia spurring support for the program within their school communities. He said, in addition, more small businesses and corporations with an interest in Catholic education stepped forward to donate to the program.
Some 2,300 participants contributed to Grace Scholars, close to the same number as last year, Brown said.
Grace Scholars covers the state as a collaboration between the Diocese of Savannah and the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Its goal is to provide scholarships to families with financial need throughout the state to help pay for Catholic school tuition.
1,051 Georgia students receiving tuition aid
According to a December report from the Georgia Department of Revenue, Grace Scholars is the fifth largest scholarship organization in the state out of 28 similar organizations.
The student scholarship organization raises money from individuals and corporations. In exchange for their financial contribution, donors receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit when filing Georgia income taxes.
Here’s how it works. On the first business day of 2017, Grace Scholars submitted applications for tax credits on behalf of its donors to the Georgia Department of Revenue. Donors received a letter from the Revenue Department with details about whether their tax credit amount was approved. The letters were issued in the second week of January. The donor will then make a payment to Grace Scholars within 60 days. When filing 2017 taxes, which will be filed in 2018, the donor will be able to claim the donation as a tax credit.
Georgia sets aside $58 million annually for this program. Due to its popularity, the applications for the tax credits for all student scholarship organizations quickly exceed the funding cap. Tax credit applications are closed for the year and those who receive tax credits get a proportionate share.
Due to the high demand, Grace Scholars expects only about $3 million of its donations will be eligible for tax credits.
Individual taxpayers can apply for a tax credit up to $1,000. Married couples filing jointly can seek a tax credit up to $2,500. Businesses can also reduce their tax burden by donating to the organization.
As of August 2016, 1,051 students in the Savannah Diocese and the Atlanta Archdiocese were attending Catholic schools with tuition aid from Grace Scholars. Seven out of 10 of the scholars were attending Catholic elementary schools; the rest are high school students.
Twenty-five percent of the scholars come from families with an annual income of $22,550 or less. The median family income for a scholarship recipient is $39,750, according to Grace Scholars.
The Catholic program began in 2008. Since then, 126 Grace Scholars have graduated from Georgia Catholic schools and gone on to college, according to Brown.
To be eligible for a Grace Scholar award, a student must be a Georgia resident with financial need. An eligible student is either entering a Catholic school for the first time from a public school at the second grade level or above or is a child about to enter first grade, kindergarten or an accredited pre-kindergarten program.
Once a child becomes a Grace Scholar they are eligible to continue receiving the aid until they complete the highest grade in their school. The award is reviewed annually to ensure continuing financial need, state residency and a student’s good standing with the school.
For more information: www.gracescholars.org or 404-920-7900.