NEED TUITION HELP?
By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor
More than one-third of all students attending Catholic schools in the Diocese of Sioux City received financial assistance this year.
Given that the Msgr. Lafferty Tuition Foundation was allowed to raise more than one-half of a million more dollars this year, the number and size of the tuition grants are expected to rise in the coming year.
This is the third year that all families seeking any form of tuition assistance offered by the Catholic schools are asked to complete an application through FAIR (Financial Aid Independent Review, Inc.), which provides a third-party review process.
Tim Hancock, business manager at St. Edmond Catholic Schools in Fort Dodge, pointed out that through this one form, application is made for tuition grants offered by the Msgr. Lafferty Tuition Foundation, the Catherine Birzle Education Trust and local school tuition assistance programs.
He explained that grants through the Catherine Birzle Education Trust are awarded to high school students with the greatest financial need and for the Msgr. Lafferty Tuition Foundation, which awards tuition grants to students in kindergarten through twelfth grade, the state has established eligibility guidelines.
“Having Lafferty and Birzle dollars has freed up my aid here at St. Edmond’s,” Hancock said. “If a family needs $2,000 in assistance, Lafferty may provide $1,000 and then I only have to come up with $1,000 (local dollars). In the past, I would have had to come up with $2,000.”
Because there is more money left at the local level, he said families who had applied for aid in the past and never received it, now stand a better chance at receiving tuition assistance.
“We at St. Edmond’s, give out $250,000 a year of tuition aid,” he said.
Dave Newbrough, director of finance for Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools in Sioux City, said he recommends that all families complete an application. He mentioned that because Bishop Heelan has a tuition model that is based on income, families who opt not to apply for assistance must either complete an income verification form through FAIR or bring a copy of their prior year’s tax return into the business office.
“We make a point to try to get the FAIR application into the hands of every family,” he said. “We don’t want to make any assumptions about people’s income levels.”
This year’s application process will be essentially the same as it has been in the past. In order to complete the application, persons must have completed their 2008 taxes. The fee to complete the form is $21 this year.
“This is a slight increase over last year, but I have been told that this rate is good for the next three years,” said Newbrough.
FAIR applications will be available by the end of the month at all Catholic schools. The application may be completed and sent in through traditional mail or may be done on-line at www. fairapp.com.
The deadline to register is April 1.
“I cannot stress enough for people – if they have any thoughts at all about applying for assistance – to definitely apply and do it by the deadline,” said Newbrough. “That deadline is very critical this year because the vast majority of dollars will be allocated to families who get their applications in by April 1.”
He noted that a small amount of aid will be held back for families that are new to the Catholic school.
Hancock also said he encourages all of the families to apply.
He spoke of the value of having the third-party provider, FAIR.
“All of the information goes to them and they do the configurations,” Hancock said. “I receive a printout that tells which families need assistance and how much. None of that is done on-site and I think it makes the awards very credible.”
In relation to the Msgr. Lafferty Tuition Foundation, Kevin Strayton, president of FAIR, said that eligibility to receive those dollars are set by requirements established by the state of Iowa based on income and household size.
And while Msgr. Lafferty funds have strict guidelines, he pointed out that FAIR determines how much assistance each family needs overall based on several factors. They look at the number of children in the family, the family expenses and how many children are attending Catholic schools.
“We also take a look at tuition and how that factors into the whole equation and we come up with a need number for each family,” he said.
Schools throughout the nation use this same third-party provider as a means to ensure objectivity in making awards, while providing confidentiality.
For more information, contact your local Catholic school administrator, development director or business manager.
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