(The Center Square) – An administrator has been named for Iowa’s Students First education savings accounts.
Odyssey was selected to administer the ISF ESAs, Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office announced Tuesday.
The Students First Act was enacted Jan. 24, and the program launches with the 2023-2024 school year. Kindergarten through 12th grade students at accredited nonpublic schools in Iowa will receive funding that’s the equivalent of the “per pupil” funds the state’s public schools receive annually.
The state issued a request for proposal Jan. 26. It selected Odyssey from among four applicants. The others were Inspired Life, Merit and Student First Technologies, according to the Iowa Department of Administrative Services.
“Odyssey was chosen based on its ability to manage all aspects of program administration, including applications, financial transactions, compliance, fraud prevention, and customer service,” the news release said.
The state will negotiate a contract with Odyssey.
The company proposed a $257,200 online application system, a $167,000 fiscal management and payment system that allows real-time and historical reporting, and a $205,350 customer service program. The company employs U.S.-based customer serve agents who are available from 6 a.m. to midnight weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. With a 7.5% new customer discount, the Odyssey’s proposed state investment is $582,333.75 for the first year and $629,550 in following years.
Merit, which received 547 points compared with Odyssey’s 721 points, had proposed a software with a service structure of $8 million for the first three years.
The other two companies weren’t evaluated for cost proposals; their tech proposal scores were lower than Merit’s and Odyssey’s. Inspired Life had 368 and Student First Technologies had 338 points while Merit International had 493 and Odyssey (or “Primary Class”) had 505.
After contract negotiation, a team of state officials from the governor’s office, the Department of Education, the Department of Management and the Office of the Chief Information Officer will work with the company to produce the application process and technology platform.
The governor’s office said the state will announce details in the coming weeks regarding when families can apply and how they’ll verify school enrollment and income eligibility.
Families that are interested in the program can learn more about eligibility, funding and applications here and sign up to receive notifications when new information is available. Applications are due June 30 for the 2023-2024 school year. Families must apply annually.
Odyssey currently manages education savings accounts programs in two states.
The company said its team includes both educators and developers from tech giants including Google, Lyft, AngelList and Flexport.