By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor
Last fall, the Archdiocese of Louisville, its 111 parishes, and the Catholic Education Foundation pledged to make Catholic elementary school education more accessible to families.
According to a status report issued in late May, that plan is on track.
As of mid-June, a total of $4.3 million in tuition assistance had been awarded to 2,086 elementary school students for the 2015-2016 school year, according to the report.
So far, the number of students receiving awards is up 41 percent over last year’s 1,476 recipients, the report indicated. And 521 of the recipients are new students — they’re not currently enrolled in a Catholic school.
More than half of those applicants are in kindergarten. “All of this is very exciting and very encouraging,” said Leisa Schulz, superintendent of Catholic schools. “This is the first sign and step in the process.”
How this will affect overall enrollment figures isn’t yet known, Schulz said, noting that schools won’t have final enrollment numbers until mid to late August.
“We know from individual schools we’re seeing initial indications of enrollment increases,” she said. “But I think our parishes can be excited because their stewardship can impact a number of families.”
The $4.3 million in tuition assistance comes from several sources, but primarily is funded by Catholic parishes and parishioners.
The sources are:
- The Catholic Education Foundation (CEF) awarded $1.75 million in tuition assistance for the coming school year (and intends to continue awarding more assistance in the next few weeks). Funding for the CEF comes from Catholic families and parishes, as well as local businesses.
- The 111 parishes of the Archdiocese of Louisville are directly providing $1.35 million through a one-percent assessment of their overall income. The archdiocese is administering this fund and awarding the assistance in the form of discounts and vouchers to families.
- Individual parishes and schools are providing additional awards to students totalling $955,000.
- School Choice, a privately funded organization, is awarding another $200,000 to Catholic school students.
Dr. Brian Reynolds, the chancellor and chief administrative officer of the archdiocese, credited the success of the effort to pastors, parishes and parishioners. “Pastors said, if students want to go to Catholic schools they should be able to attend,” Reynolds said. “That voice of compassion, that voice of commitment turned a declining population into an increasing population.”
Reynolds noted that the rise in funding began last fall with the announcement of the Catholic Elementary School Plan, which established the new and enhanced funding sources.
“The original goal of the plan was to see how we can best make our schools more accessible to a wider population and help families struggling to afford a Catholic education,” said Reynolds. “We think that families ought to have the choice to attend Catholic schools if they so desire and financial challenges should not be the sole reason they chose not to attend a Catholic school.”
Richard Lechleiter, president of the Catholic Education Foundation said in a recent interview that four out of five applicants received tuition assistance for the coming school year. And all applicants who demonstrated a financial need received tuition assistance, he said.
He and Julie Baum, director of events for the foundation, also reviewed all of the award decisions by hand to ensure the awards took into account all of a family’s challenges, he said.
“Every single family that had a demonstrated financial need got an award. That’s never happened in our history,” he said.
The CEF planned to offer a second round of awards through July.
The Catholic Education Foundation recently hired Kevin S. Woodward to help increase fundraising efforts as director of development. Woodward previously served as director of admissions at St. Xavier High School.