New school plan expands tuition assistance

By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor

Erika Nguyen, a kindergarten student at St. Nicholas Academy, talked to Deacon Mike Tolbert during a school program last month. St. Nicholas has actively encouraged potential students to seek tuition assistance from the Catholic Education Foundation, which has enabled more children to attend. (Photo Special to The Record)

Erika Nguyen, a kindergarten student at St. Nicholas Academy, talked to Deacon Mike Tolbert during a school program last month. St. Nicholas has actively encouraged potential students to seek tuition assistance from the Catholic Education Foundation, which has enabled more children to attend. (Photo Special to The Record)

Under the new Catholic Elementary School Plan, students in the Archdiocese of Louisville have access to four sources of funding to defray the cost of tuition.

They are:

  •  Tuition assistance from the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF).
  •  New tuition vouchers from the Archdiocese of Louisville.
  •  A new tuition discount program for low-income families.
  •  And the traditional scholarships offered by parishes.

Dr. Brian Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the Archdiocese of Louisville, said these funding sources can be combined to make Catholic education more accessible to all families.

“A helpful way to understand how this financial support will happen is the image of financial aid packages for college students,” he explained.

Interested families, he said, should start by applying to a school and filling out the Private School Aid Service forms (PSAS), available at schools. The PSAS is an independent, third-party organization that assesses the ability of families to pay tuition.

From there, aid will be offered in its various forms to those who qualify.

The first source is the CEF. The foundation has steadily increased its tuition assistance fund each of the past several years and next year aims to surpass this year’s record of $1.7 million — by 20 percent.

About one in 10 Catholic elementary school students in the Archdiocese of Louisville already are assisted by the foundation, said Richard A. Lechleiter, the CEF’s new president.

St. Nicholas Academy in South Louisville credits the CEF’s assistance with its survival. It is one of the most diverse schools in the archdiocese. Forty three of its 370 or so students are from non-English speaking families and 30 percent of its student body receives free or reduced lunch.

The 10-year-old regional school urges parents to fill out PSAS forms along with their school applications, said Kathy DeLozier, St. Nicholas’ principal.

“Carol Nord and Kitty Schloemer (previous leaders of the school), made those forms as available as soon as possible to parents and took the chance that the CEF would be there to support us. And they’ve been there every step of the way,” said DeLozier.

“St. Nicholas would not exist if it were not for the CEF. We are able to keep our class sizes manageable and offer a very rich program because the CEF helps us get the numbers we need at our school,” she said. “Rich (Lechleiter) says, ‘You keep finding the kids and we’ll keep finding the money.’ ”

In the last 10 years, the CEF has given St. Nicholas families $1 million in tuition assistance.

With the CEF’s goal to increase funding and the archdiocese’s new voucher and discount programs, more families can benefit the way St. Nicholas families have, church leaders say.

“Virtually all of our schools have students receiving financial aid,” Reynolds said, noting that not all schools encourage families to apply for aid as actively as St. Nicholas. “With the new plan, we’ll clearly create a pathway for additional students to attend our schools.”

The plan’s tuition discount will be available to all students — regardless of their faith tradition or parish membership. It will be based on need and has been described by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz as a preferential option for the poor. It provides a $1,000 tuition discount for one child and a $500 discount for each additional child to families whose income doesn’t meet a minimum threshold.

For the 2015-2016 school year, that threshold is 200% of the federally-designated poverty rate. The 2014 poverty rate for a family of four is an annual income of $23,850.

In addition, the Archdiocese of Louisville tuition vouchers — which will be funded by contributions from all of the archdiocese’s parishes — will provide tuition assistance for qualifying families that belong to Catholic parishes. The amount of aid will be based on need and aims to supplement the other funding sources.

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