The results summarized here are drawn from a total of 169 transactions made between
2008 and 2018 that provided $573.8 million to 98 charter schools.
Key Finding #1
Financing activity has been relatively uneven across states.
Key Finding #2
Charter schools financed through USDA are largely successful, as measured by enrollment, academic, and financial performance.
Trends in Enrollment
Trends in Financial Health Performance Ratings
Trends in Academic Performance Ratings
Key Finding #3
Larger rural charter schools are heavily represented among USDA financing recipients.
Summary of USDA Financed Projects
About a quarter of recipients recieved USDA financing for multiple projects over the 10 year reviewed.
USDA loans have been used for various project types.
Recommendations to Strengthen the Effectiveness of
USDA's Charter School Financing:
Plan ahead and be persistent.
Schools must allot significant time for the financing process and must follow up on materials submitted, questions asked, or other communications. Schools should not let the first roadblock become a barrier to accessing funds.
Expand the marketplace and network with schools.
The success and volume of charter school transactions in the top states provides evidence of the market’s potential. Finance professionals can develop and support state markets and ensure more schools, including small rural schools, can have access to financing.
Reframe feasibility studies.
The scope and accompanying cost of pre-financing feasibility studies are cited as excessive and even prohibitive by schools. It is not clear that the information required for feasibility studies makes for stronger schools or better loans. The USDA should consider creating feasibility studies that require the most critical information needed.
Create standard guidance across USDA state offices.
North Carolina, Utah, Delaware, and Hawaii account for the majority of states where rural charters have accessed this financing, and knowledge of and standards for this program among state offices appears to be uneven. The USDA can ensure that each state office is aware of the applicability to charter schools, as well as best practices.
Improve the content, reliability, and accessibility of USDA and charter school financing information.
Charter schools represent a significant potential market for USDA lending, and improving the availability of valuable information that the USDA publishes and tracks will ensure more financing and more community access to charter schools.