Most Archdiocese in America have tuition assistance, and a quick Google search of your state or city can yield quick results as to the process of applying, amount of assistance in grants and/or scholarships, and the schools that the tuition assistance applies to, if there are any restrictions.

Some archdiocese do something unique for the specifics needs of the community they are a part of, for example, the New York Archdiocese has an Inner-City Scholarship Fund, which exists to aid families with financial needs in securing the kind of quality education rooted in values that they are seeking for their children.

From the Inner-City Scholarship fund website: “Nearly 70% of the students enrolled in designated elementary and secondary inner-city Catholic schools in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island come from homes living at or below the federal poverty line. The average scholarship recipient’s family income is approximately $24,000 per year. Over 50% of inner-city Catholic school students come from single-parent households.”

With this fund, Catholic schools partner with the donors of the program to help these families and their children reach a better education, and -by extension- a more promising future. In an area where a third of students in inner city schools do not graduate at all, and other obstacles face inner city children daily, an overwhelmingly large number of Catholic seniors graduate. A whopping 98%. And, further, 96% of those graduates go on to pursue some form of higher education at universities countrywide, which is an awe-inspiring number.

In order to combat the declining trend in Catholic school enrollment as shown by the National Catholic Educational Association’s report, some schools in various states are looking towards scholarships as opportunities to actually reverse that trend and grow enrollment. Florida and Nebraska have both seen growth with initiatives. There are needs based and merit based scholarships, grants for minorities, and more states and Archdiocese are looking to branch out and think outside of the box.

The Archdiocese of Omaha has a particularly interesting program called “Welcome Tuition Grants.” These grants are offered only to families who transfer from secular private, public, and home schools into the Catholic schools within the Archdiocese. “We think Catholic education has plenty of great things to offer families,” said Patrick Slattery, superintendent of the Archdiocese of Omaha. “But we do have capacity to educate more.” Slattery said he borrowed the idea from Allentown, Pennsylvania, where Catholic school enrollment had steadily declined for 15 years, indicative of a nationwide trend. The Allentown diocese reversed the decline in 2012, however, by offering tuition discounts, not based on merit, but on new students enrolling in their schools, leading to 426 new enrollments. Omaha began piloting this program for the first year in the 2015-2016 school year, so it is fairly new, but within just a small three week window after it was announced, they saw 43 new students transferred to a Catholic school. “We are offering tuition grants to invite families to experience the excellent education opportunities and the Catholic school environment that is welcoming, demanding and Christ-centered,” said Slattery.

This kind of outside-of-the-box thinking should continue. Scholarships and grants to families with fiscal needs, exceptional children, minorities, and transfers are all great ways to both bring your schools in line with wishes of Pope Francis who has spoken many times about the need to make a Catholic education more available to all children, and to also help to keep the Catholic schools in our communities alive, healthy, and full.

What do you think of these initiatives? Do you have ideas or your own? Tweet at @SVirgadamo!