By RENEE WEBB
Fall registration is well underway for the 2017-2018 school year according to the Office of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Sioux City.
Stacia Thompson, coordinator of enrollment and outreach for the diocesan Catholic schools, said most of the schools have held or will be holding preschool and kindergarten roundups for the coming year.
To help ensure that a Catholic school education is available for all who seek one for their children, a variety of scholarship programs are available to provide assistance with tuition.
“If you want your child to go to a Catholic school, our schools are very committed to working with you to make it affordable for your family,” Thompson said. “When people are trying to find the best environment for their children, they need to come and see the difference a Catholic education can make in their spiritual upbringing as well as their academic achievements.”
Dan Ryan, Ed.D, superintendent of Catholic schools, said one of the most important decisions parents can make is the education they choose for their child.
“It is a stepping stone for their future,” he said. “It only makes sense that they would want to see what opportunities are available for their students to make sure they are making the right choice for their child.”
Thompson pointed out applications are now being accepted for the diocesan scholarship program.
Apply by April 1
“Current families of Catholic schools must have their application in by April 1,” she said. “I would encourage everyone to fill out an application. Anyone who meets the criteria of the scholarship will be awarded some assistance.”
Ryan said given the availability of various scholarship sources, it allows families “to choose a school that best fits their child. It’s a great asset to over a third of our students.”
Through one form, application is made for tuition scholarships from the Msgr. Lafferty Tuition Foundation, Bishop’s Education Fund, the Catherine Birzle Education Trust and even some of the local school assistance programs. Also, families with a child at more than one diocesan school only need complete one application.
Ryan explained families with the greatest financial need, those with incomes reaching up to 300 percent of income deemed by the state to be poverty level can qualify for tuition scholarships through the Msgr. Lafferty Tuition Foundation.
More than $2.8 million was awarded to 2,188 students throughout the diocese for the Msgr. Lafferty for the 2016-2017 year.
Families with incomes that fall between 301 and 400 percent of poverty level can qualify for scholarships through the Bishop’s Education Fund.
Nearly $190,000 in scholarships from the Bishop’s Education Fund was awarded to 602 recipients for the current school year.
“This will be our third year of providing these scholarships,” Thompson said. “It was created to try to bridge the gap for the middle-income families.”
Catherine Birzle money is awarded to high school students with financial need. School designations are based on school enrollment.
Applications are available on the diocesan website – scdiocese.org – as well as individual Catholic school websites.
“Eligibility for scholarships is determined by a third-party provider,” noted Thompson, who added this also ensures personal financial information is held in the strictest confidence.
This year there is a new third party provider that is calculating the tuition scholarships. Private School Aid Service (PSAS) was acquired by FACTS Management out of Lincoln, Neb.
You can go to online.factsmgt.com/aid to fill out an application online.
“Each school also offers a variety of local tuition assistance. Families should check with their local school administrator or pastor to find out more about what local assistance is available in their community,” said Thompson.
Ryan stressed the fact that they continue to advocate for additional school choice programs so the barrier of cost is removed for all families.
“That is an ongoing endeavor,” he said.
For instance, for several years Catholic school leaders have been advocating for Education Savings Accounts that would help to remove tuition barriers.
“The Catholic Church has taught consistently over history that parents are the primary educators of their children and that any barriers to them being able to select the appropriate education should be removed,” Ryan said. “Finances are a barrier and so we are advocating that they be allowed to use some of their state tax dollars to select an educational setting that is best for them.”
As young families discern where they plan to send their children to preschool, Thompson encouraged them not to wait too long to sign up with preschools offered at the diocesan schools.
“Many of our schools have expanded their preschool offerings,” she noted. “With our enrollment growth, we anticipate that at the preschool and kindergarten levels we will fill up quickly.”
While tuition scholarships are not available for preschool, Thompson explained they do participate in the statewide 4-year-old voluntary preschool program that allows for free or low-cost tuition.
Tuition scholarships are offered for kindergarten students.