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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma’s Stay in School Fund tuition assistance program surpassed expectations in ensuring low income private school students have educational stability after their families either lost jobs or struggled financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office.

Stitt launched the program in July 2020.

“Our Stay in School program has successfully supported more low-income children and their families than officials predicted for a fraction of the cost,” Stitt said. “By ensuring these children could remain within their educational support system amidst a global pandemic, we have provided critical stability for families who need it most.”

The news release states that $10 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, provided through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, went to the Stay in School Fund program to help stabilize the state’s education system and provide temporary funds to students attending private schools whose continued attendance was threatened by the financial hardship caused by COVID-19.

The program largely helps low-income families, according to the news release.

“More than one out of every five children benefitting from the program came from a home with income at 100% of the federal poverty level (FPL) or lower, which equates to a family of four with $26,200 or less in annual income. Nearly 60% of recipients were from families with incomes at 185% of the FPL or less, or $48,470 for a family of four,” the news release states.

The program ultimately helped 1,893 children at an average cost of $5,132 per child, according to the news release.

Ninety-seven private schools across Oklahoma have students who benefit from the program, including schools in non-metropolitan communities such as Clinton, Durant, Sulphur, Ponca City, Muskogee, Bartlesville, Tahlequah, Enid, Miami, Choctaw, McAlester, Okarche, Corn and Ardmore, the news release states.