To meet tuition needs, CEF aims for $250,000 by June 30

Students at St. Stephen Martyr School attended an all-school Mass Sept. 17. Sixty-two percent of families at St. Stephen Martyr receive tuition assistance from the Catholic Education Foundation. A total of $6.5 million was awarded to 3,250 students around the archdiocese for the 2019-2020 school year. (Record Photo by Jessica Able)

The Catholic Education Foundation is on a race to meet its fundraising goals by the end of its fiscal year, June 30.

The CEF’s normal annual fund period was cut short this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Richard A. Lechleiter, CEF president.

“March and April normally starts our annual fund fundraising period but we delayed the launch to early May because it wasn’t appropriate given the circumstances,” Lechleiter said in a phone interview last week.

The foundation staff aims to raise about $250,000 by the end of the month in order to fulfill the need for tuition assistance.

Despite the cancellation of the foundation’s single largest fundraising event, the Salute to Catholic School Alumni dinner exceeded its goal of $1.2 million.

The event, originally scheduled for March 18, netted a record $1.25 million. Funds from the event go to families who cannot afford the full cost of Catholic elementary school tuition.

Most patrons and donors, Lechleiter noted, continued with their pledged gift amounts even with the cancellation of the event.

“It was obviously the right thing to do to cancel it. But, our concern was it’s the biggest fundraising event — what would that mean to us and our families. But by the grace of God, we pulled it off,” he said.

Last year, the foundation distributed about $6.5 million in tuition aid. $1.6 million of that total comes from the Salute dinner and the Salute to THE GAME Luncheon, held prior to the annual St. Xavier/Trinity football game.

“While those events are a big percent of our total income, we have to do so much more fundraising outside those events to make our goal,” he said.

The first round of awards for the 2020-2021 school year was announced to families at the end of May. Approximately, 2,750 students received $5.1 million in tuition assistance awards. The average award per student is $1,850, Lechleiter said.

Additional rounds of awards are set to go out in June and July. Lechleiter said the foundation expects requests for tuition assistance to increase due to the economic uncertainty.

Lechleiter said the foundation expects to award $6.8 million in tuition aid for the coming academic year.

“We’re going to have kids in need in record numbers. We need record dollars to fulfill that,” he said. “We have to fulfill this mission, to stand up and accompany our families year after year. That’s a requirement, not an option.”

To assist with the annual fund shortfall, a regular donor agreed to donate $100,000 if the 25 members of the CEF board of directors would commit to raising $200,000 among themselves.

“The board exceeded that goal and it was a huge show of support. During a really tough period, they stepped up in a major way to help our families,” he said.

An added source of pressure, Lechleiter said, has been the dip in the foundation’s endowment. In December 2019, the endowment stood at $23.2 million. By March 31, that figure dropped to $17 million. As of last week, it’s back up to $22 million. The stability of the endowment is crucial to the future success of the foundation’s ability to assist families, Lechleiter said. About $1 million of each year’s total awards comes from the endowment.

To learn more about the CEF, visit ceflou.org.

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