The Catholic Education Foundation’s slogan is “The Answer is Yes” and this school year, the foundation has said yes to 3,400 students desiring a Catholic education. That’s up from 3,350 students who received tuition assistance last school year.
The CEF and the Archdiocese of Louisville announced Sept. 16 that assistance to families of elementary school children reached an “all-time high” for the 2021-2022 school year, said Richard A. Lechleiter, president of the CEF.
The foundation also announced that it set another record with tuition assistance totaling $7 million. That’s up from $6.5 million last year, Lechleiter said.
Half of the funding came from the foundation; $2 million from parishes and schools and $1.5 million from the archdiocese, including the Community Catholic Center.
Lechleiter said the foundation is “enormously blessed” to be able to assist so many families, even during challenging times brought about by a pandemic.
“The level of giving has never been stronger and we’re incredibly thankful to this community,” he said in a recent interview. “It’s a testament to the value of Catholic education in this community. People believe that Catholic education is a wonderful, life-changing experience and they want to provide that to more families. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to our donors big and small.”
Lechleiter noted that Catholic school educators also played a role in the success of the foundation. Catholic schools’ performance was “exemplary” during the 2020-2021 school year, he said.
The pandemic made in-person learning challenging, but educators worked to overcome the challenges, he noted. Lechleiter said he believes the community took notice of those efforts and wants to support Catholic schools.
“It’s all in God’s plan, but if you think about the past 20 months and all the hard work of our school folks, it makes sense that we’d be enjoying this incredible support,” he said.
Lechleiter said St. James is one of those schools where enrollment is up and so is the number of students receiving tuition assistance. All 97 families that applied for tuition assistance at St. James this school year receive aid, he said. The average award per student at the school is $3,680, which is up from $3,158 last school year, he said.
“I’m proud of the students and the work being done there,” he said.
Father Gary Padgett, pastor of St. James and St. Brigid churches, said the CEF has been helpful in the school’s mission to educate “at-risk” students.
“We’ve been fortunate and blessed to have the involvement of the CEF in the lives of our students,” said Father Padgett in a recent interview. “The CEF has taken an interest in them. These students couldn’t attend without substantial help from the CEF.”
Father Padgett said that both parishes — St. James and St. Brigid — have “Embraced the work” the school is doing to recruit students from the West End and the Portland neighborhood, where 40 of the school’s students live. They see it as a “vital public ministry, one they want to support,” he said.
An increase in enrollment due to the CEF’s assistance has helped the school to keep operating, he noted.
Lechleiter noted that in spite of deadlines, the “window never closes … If someone calls our office today and are struggling in lots of different ways, we’ll give them the same answer — yes,” he said. “We’ll accompany them in their Catholic school journey. That’s an important message.”
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who serves as vice-chair of the foundation’s board, said he’s grateful for the continued work to make Catholic education possible for families who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.
“I am deeply thankful that we can come together to create so much hope for so many families. God has blessed our families, our schools and this community,” said Archbishop Kurtz in a press release from the CEF. “Please join me giving thanks to the Lord that a record number of families can have access to this life-changing opportunity called Catholic education.”
Mary Beth Bowling, superintendent of Catholic schools said her office is grateful for the work of the CEF, as well.
“We are so thankful for the work that CEF has done to continue to provide tuition assistance for those that need it the most,” she said. “Their ability to continue to engage more families in the life of our schools and communities each year is a tribute to their mission — to help those who want a Catholic education realize that opportunity. We welcome the new students to our schools and look forward to working with them in the days and weeks to come.”
To learn more about the CEF, visit www.ceflou.org/.