Catholic Education Foundation aids record number of students

Scarlett Diniz, Vivian Lipinski and Eliza Hensley, eighth-grade students, at Holy Trinity School in St. Matthews completed school work outdoors earlier this month. The Catholic Education Foundation announced today that it awarded $6.5 million in tuition assistance to 3,350 students for the 2020-2021 school year. (Photo Special to The Record)

Despite a year filled with uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Catholic Education Foundation was still able to provide millions of dollars in aid to families who yearn for a Catholic education for their children.

For the sixth year in a row, the CEF presented awards to each family that demonstrated need. The total amount of aid distributed was $6.5 million, the same total as last year’s amount. And, 3,350 students were aided in the process, a record amount said Richard A. Lechleiter, foundation president.

A breakdown of the $6.5 million in tuition funds shows that the parishes and schools of the archdiocese provided $2 million. Another $1.5 million came directly from the archdiocese and the Community Catholic Center, which helps students in Louisville’s West End attend Catholic schools. And $3 million was provided by the foundation.

“Parents are trying to navigate a pathway for their kids in a time that’s not as clear as it used to be,” said Lechleiter in an interview Oct. 19. 

With the increase in students aided and the same level of funding provided, the awards to each family were slightly down for the 2020-2021 school year, Lechleiter noted. But, the calls from families continue to come in each day, he said.

With Jefferson County Public Schools still utilizing non-traditional instruction, more families, particularly those with younger students, have reached out to the foundation to inquire about assistance, Lechleiter said.

“There is a growing sense of frustration among parents, particularly those with very young children who do not do well with remote learning. Many times both parents are working outside the home,” he said.

The window of opportunity never closes, he said. “If someone calls today and yearns for this gift for their child and can’t afford it, we will do whatever we have to do to make sure they get the choice they want.”

As the foundation looks to planning for the future, a major focus will be placed on growing the endowment, he said. Currently, the endowment sits at about $25 million. Ideally, he said, in about 10 to 15 years the endowment needs to be $100 million.

“That’s quite doable and we will work hard to make that happen,” he said. 

Lechleiter added that the foundation has done a “great job at raising funds in the near term” but the gap that remains is funding for the longer term. “Our endowment is not nearly to the value it needs to be and we are going to address that.”

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz expressed gratitude for the “continued progress to improve access to Catholic education.”

“I am deeply thankful that we can come together to create so much hope for so many families,” he said.

To learn more about the Catholic Education Foundation, visit ceflou.org.

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