Second collection Jan. 24-25 to benefit tuition assistance
Catholics and non-Catholics alike have a new opportunity to help students desiring a Catholic education get one.
An appeal, “Champions of Catholic Education,” is underway to raise money to help parents who can’t afford the tuition to send their children to Catholic schools.
There are two ways to participate. Catholics can contribute to the campaign during the second collection at all Masses in the archdiocese Jan. 24-25 or send donations directly to the Office of Catholic Schools, 7887 Walmsley Ave., New Orleans, LA 70125. ATTN: Superintendent Dr. Jan Lancaster.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond approved the timing of this endeavor to coincide with national Catholic Schools Week 2015 – “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service” – on Jan. 25-31, Lancaster, superintendent of Catholic schools, said. It also simultaneously coincides with a series of ads – “Why Choose Catholic Schools?” – being aired locally to promote Catholic education. Need quantified
Lancaster said her office surveyed archdiocesan school principals – using data obtained from a strategic planning study for local Catholic schools by the Center for the Advancement of Catholic Education at The Catholic University of America conducted January 2011 to June 2012 – to determine tuition-assistance needs.
The survey results revealed a disparity between the annual interest available for tuition assistance and school budget assistance – about $500,000 gained annually on the current approximately $15 million Catholic school endowment – and what was truly needed to help families.
The endowment principal must be boosted to $40 million to yield the $2 million annually needed for tuition assistance, Lancaster said.
“We realize that a lot of people want a Catholic education but can’t afford that,” Lancaster said. “We heard that at a lot of the synod meetings. If you look at the cost of Catholic education and the survey that came out of The Catholic University study, there is a need.”
A second collection is just a part of the overall financial piece of the strategic plan for local Catholic schools.
The overall goal as stated in the Office of Catholic Schools (OCS) report is “to foster a spirit of collaboration that will ensure financial stability, continuity and growth of Catholic schools.”
The report details how OCS had to find creative ways to ensure financial stability systemwide. It surmises that current tuition cannot be lowered if schools are to maintain high standards, quality facilities and pay teachers a just wage. But measures could be taken to make Catholic education more “available” to those who currently can’t afford it, Lancaster concluded.
The plan specifies working with parishes “to develop new methods of parish financial support for Catholic education” at the archdiocesan, deanery and parish/school level. This includes encouraging school administrators to establish and/or grow an endowment for tuition assistance. Lancaster said every school already offers some sort of tuition assistance.
Other aspects of the report include creating Catholic school financial transparency by publicizing tuition and fees of all Catholic schools in the archdiocese on the OCS website – www.ocs-no.org. This will be completed by mid-February, before new student registration in the 2015-16 school year, she said.
Maintaining accountability by compiling an annual financial report is another objective, as is: OCS collaborating to help elementary and archdiocesan high schools meet their tuition benchmarks; and creating an archdiocesan-wide minimum salary scale with OCS working with the finance office and office of human resources within the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Other creative fund-raisers for tuition assistance are being brainstormed with stakeholders. Lancaster said one initiative for tuition assistance is an “Adopt-a-Student” program – seeking help from individuals and corporations in the community.
According to Lancaster’s records and in checking with former superintendents, this is the first time that a second collection has been taken up at Mass for tuition assistance in Catholic schools. The suggestion came from a committee that reviewed the recommendations from The Catholic University study. Scholarships will be awarded to families who complete a third-party assessment and are deemed most in need.
Value of Catholic schools
Lancaster said she wants more people to recognize the long-term individual and community benefits of Catholic education. In addition to strong academic as evidenced by statistics – 99.6 percent of Catholic high school seniors graduate, 99 percent took the ACT, 98 percent enter post-graduate studies – she points to the many Catholic school graduates who contribute to society through positions in local, state and national government, on nonprofit boards and in other careers.
Money raised in this campaign will result in creating future community leaders and help “anybody who chooses a Catholic education have the opportunity to have that,” she said.
Lancaster sees the value of Catholic education as being embedded in faith and people. “The reason we should fund Catholic schools is that every child is treated sacredly because we know we are doing this in the name of Jesus. We know we are being the face of Christ to the people we serve, and we model that to kids. Embedded in all that is extremely strong academics” so students are prepared for the future.
For details on the campaign or to learn more about Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, call the Office of Catholic Schools at 861-6283 or visit ocs.arch-no.org.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion herald.org.