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Archdiocese capital campaign will benefit tuition assistance

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By John Stegeman

Arguably the top complaint of parents with Catholic school children and those without is the same — Catholic education can sometimes feel like an unaffordable burden.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has heard that complaint loud and clear and, as part of the “Lighting the Way: A Vision for Catholic Schools” program, will establish a tuition assistance fund that will aim to make a Catholic education and affordable reality for anyone in need.

“When we unveiled our vision, this grabbed a lot of attention,” Jim Rigg, superintendent of the archdiocesan Catholic schools, said. “We’ve identified affordability as a key concern for the sustainability of Catholic school education in the future. We know that there are many families out there who wish they could join our schools but are unable to afford the cost of tuition.

“This is an area where we feel we can realize our collective strength,” Rigg added. “We announced in August we’re establishing a separate 501c(3) fund that will eventually become a need based fund for Catholic school families. The fund will be based on need, not geography. This is a fund that will be available to any family, anywhere based on their assessed level of need.”

The capital campaign that will seed the fund is still a couple years away. A committee is examining how the fund with work in conjunction with other funds and how it will be governed. Nevertheless, the promise of massive tuition assistance is an exciting one for many families.

“If nothing else, in the last five months, since the release of our Vision, we have felt a tremendous amount of energy and momentum,” Rigg said. “Our vision represents a reaffirmation of the importance of Catholic school education in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. People are interested in our schools like never before.”

The scope of the fund is still a work in progress as well. Rigg did say the fund could grow to “tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“We’re still putting together our projections,” Rigg said. “Part of our initial study will be to identify specific numbers on what really is the level of need and what are our realistic targets for fundraising. We know the need is significant.

“There are many, many families out there who are enrolled in our schools who are struggling, sacrificing,” Rigg said. “There are many families we talk to who would love to come to Catholic schools, but are unable to afford it.”

Rigg said about half the archdiocesan schools have their own tuition assistance program. The archdiocesan Tuition Assistance Fund will be the initial source of funding for families in need, but Rigg expects the need for local funds to continue.

“There are families out there, benefactors, donors, who only feel compelled to give to a single school, but there are also donors out there who want to give to the common cause of Catholic education,” Rigg said. “We never had a receptacle for their giving in the past. Now we do.”

Rigg added that the cost of a educating a student, per pupil, at a Catholic elementary school is about $5,400 per year, but he said few schools charge near that amount in tuition. That cost goes up to $8,400 at the high school level.

While the fund is still two years away, some fundraising will begin soon. The George M. Hubert Foundation is working with the archdiocese on a fundraiser for 29 west side schools in August. The foundation will match whatever funds the archdiocese can raise, helping to bridge the gap until the fund is up and running.

“Our ultimate goal is to provide a high-quality, vibrant, authentically Catholic education for any family who wishes to come,” Rigg said. “In order to fulfill that commitment, we have to make a sincere effort to ensure our schools are affordable, accessible and available. Tuition assistance is a key way of fulfilling that need. It’s not the only way, but it’s a key way.”

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