Rebate program helps 908 students get Catholic education

 
A tuition assistance program established by the state of Louisiana in 2012 and funded by corporate and individual donors is growing at such a rate that about 900 students will qualify for tuition rebates to attend 57 Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans in the 2016-17 academic year.

 
The number of students helped by the State of Louisiana Tuition Donation Rebate Program (TDR) is almost three times what it was for the 2015-16 school year, said Dr. RaeNell Houston, associate superintendent of school choice programs for the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools.
 
“I am so excited to see the program grow from six kids to over 300 kids to now 900 kids,” Houston said. “We have so many kids who are now able to afford Catholic education who were not able to afford it in the past.”

Significant help
The deadline has passed to apply for the TDR program for the 2016-17 academic year, but applications for 2017-18 will open again in January, Houston said. There are about 908 students who this year will attend Catholic schools – 20 high schools and 37 elementary schools – through the rebate program.
 
The tuition rebates are significant: $4,676 for high school students and $4,156 for elementary students.
 
“For elementary students, that is close to full tuition, so the family would have to pay less than $1,000 additionally,” Houston said. “For high school students, that’s about half the tuition.”
 
The program makes sense for the state, Houston said, because the amount of the rebate “is substantially less than it costs to educate a child in public school, saving the state money.”

Donors rebated by state
Private donors – both businesses and individuals – fund the program by donating money to the state. They then receive 95 percent of that donation back in the summer following the current academic year.
 
In other words, if a donor contributes $10,000 to the TDR program, it would receive a $9,500 check back from the state the following summer. The 5 percent difference defrays the administrative costs to the private organizations running the program. The archdiocese also helps fund the program.
 
Peter Quirk, an archdiocesan fund-raiser, said banks and individuals are interested in the program because it helps make Catholic schools affordable and has a track record of success. Families also are allowed to select the Catholic school of their choice.

Program criteria
To be eligible for the TDR program, students must: ➤ Have a household income not exceeding 250 percent of federal poverty guidelines;
 
➤ Live in Louisiana;
 
➤ Have attended a Louisiana public school from Oct. 1-Feb. 1 of the most recent school year;
 
➤ Be entering kindergarten for the first time or have participated in the Louisiana Scholarship Program (voucher) or TDR program for the previous year.
 
Houston said parents can call her office at 861-6258 beginning in January 2017 for more details on the application process. Families normally are notified by the middle of June if they are eligible for the program.
 
Houston said the TDR program has grown because of increased awareness. The Office of Catholic Schools has promoted it at meetings with principals and pastors. It has grown from three schools in the first year to more than 20 last year.
 
Individuals or businesses interested in contributing can contact Quirk at 596-3063. Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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