Resources make a Catholic education affordable to all
By Sandra R. Sabo
Parishioners at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Robbinsdale consider their school a vital ministry. In fact, Sacred Heart Catholic School is the church’s largest ministry in terms of funding. Parishioners support about one- third of the total cost of educating the school’s 163 students.
Even with a parish subsidy, tuition represents a financial hurdle for some families. That’s why Archdiocesan schools have numerous programs in place to assist all families who wish to give their children a Catholic education.
“Our tuition contract encourages all families to apply for a scholarship or set up a meeting with administrators to develop a realistic payment plan,” said Karen Bursey, principal at Sacred Heart, adding that scholarship applications are provided in both English and Spanish. “For this school year, about 43 percent of our students are receiving some type of aid.”
Much of that aid includes external scholarships. The 2018-2019 Archdiocesan Schools Report (ASR) data shows $24 million in total scholarships to K-8 Catholic school students in the Archdiocese. The Aim Higher Foundation also awards annual scholarships. Since 2011, the nonprofit foundation has provided more than $6.4 million in scholarships. In addition, Catholic schools work one-on-one with families to ensure affordability. The average published tuition cost is $480 per month.
Sacred Heart, for example, provides tuition assistance through its “Lend-a- Hand” fund. “Alumni donations, memorial contributions and some proceeds from our annual gala all go into that scholarship fund,” Bursey explained. Families from Sacred Heart can also earn money toward tuition by working concession stands at local sporting events; their earnings are paid directly to the school in the family’s name.
Other strategies schools use to keep tuition affordable include offering multi- child discounts, establishing payment plans and applying for grants from the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, the Catholic Community Foundation and the Catholic Schools Center of Excellence. The grants often apply to technology, training or marketing efforts, but they free up operational funds that the schools can then provide directly to students.
Speaking on behalf of her school and for other principals throughout the Archdiocese, Bursey noted, “Our mindset is that if a family wants a Catholic education, we’ll do whatever we can to make it work.”