Support for low-income families makes a distinguishing impact
For decades, the Catholic Education Foundation’s scholarship programs have helped Catholic schools open their doors to families most in need. With the majority of CEF’s 1,500+ scholarship recipients living at or below the poverty line and nearly 75% coming from minority backgrounds, scholarships have provided schools with the financial support to offer equity of opportunity through high-quality education. Last March, these scholarships became more vital than ever before - and the resolve of CEF donors followed suit.
An answer to the pandemic
“When parents called to tell principals they couldn’t afford to send their children back last fall, CEF gave the principals an answer,” said Dr. Vince Cascone, the Superintendent of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese. “For many schools, CEF scholarships have made the difference.”
Thanks to generous support of donors, CEF was able to approve 110 Guardian Angel emergency assistance scholarships and more than 90 additional tuition assistance scholarships to support families directly impacted by the pandemic.
“These scholarships have helped stabilize many of our schools by providing a bridge for families most in need,” said Dr. Cascone. Among the 21 schools served by CEF tuition assistance scholarships, 38% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch based on federal poverty guidelines. 93% of these students rely on CEF scholarships to help cover the cost of tuition, representing one out of every three students attending these largely inner-city or rural Catholic schools.
A lifeline for low-income families
“These scholarships meant that families most acutely impacted would be able to stay within our communities,” said Cathy Fithian, principal of Christ the King Catholic School in Kansas City, Kansas. “They’ve allowed families to focus on putting food on the table, and educators to focus on preparing a safe and successful fall semester for their children.”
The fourth quarter of 2020 brought record-breaking donor generosity, providing CEF with the funds necessary to continue the new crisis relief scholarship support into the spring semester.
"A gift to the CEF scholarship fund is an investment with the greatest possible return," said Andrew Eilert, whose family has supported CEF scholarships for years. "More than providing young minds with strong education for success in this life, the gift of a Catholic education also guides young souls on their path to eternal life."
"And the educational and personal support is often life-changing," added Andrew's wife, Stephanie.
Students at Resurrection Catholic School in KCK receive individualized instruction.
Nick Anderson, principal of Holy Family Catholic school in Topeka, echoed the Eilerts’ sentiments, noting that the impact of Catholic education reaches far beyond the school’s front doors.
“We have many children who come from extraordinarily difficult and chaotic homes who get many of their physical needs met by our school community. They experience selfless love, genuine faith, and one-on-one attention to their spiritual and emotional needs.”
A bright horizon
As principals begin enrollment for the fall semester, many are looking forward with optimism, expecting modified distancing restrictions to allow additional students into classrooms. Teachers report decreased stress levels as many have been vaccinated or will be in the coming weeks. Administrators at many CEF schools anticipate an increase in overall enrollment for the first time in decades.
“We don’t fully know what impact 2020 will have on the years ahead,” said Dr. Cascone. “But we do know CEF scholarships are effective in stabilizing our schools and meeting the most acute needs by helping the lowest income families in our communities. And our families know that CEF has their back."
Based on the NCEA's annual report, CEF schools seem to be a statistical bright spot among U.S. Catholic schools. Read more.