By Jessica Able, Record Staff
The Catholic Education Foundation, with the support the Archdiocese of Louisville and its parishes, is now providing tuition assistance to more than double the number of Catholic elementary students from just four years ago.
A record 3,100 students received tuition assistance this school year. That figure is up from 3,000 a year ago. Tuition assistance for the 2018-2019 school year totals $6.4 million, according to a press release from the Archdiocese of Louisville and the CEF.
Four years ago, the Catholic Elementary School Plan — a joint initiative of the archdiocese, the 110 parishes and the CEF — was introduced by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz. The plan aimed to make Catholic education more accessible to families wishing to provide a Catholic education.
Each year since the plan’s implementation, every family that applied for assistance and demonstrated need has been awarded some type of financial support.
St. Andrew Academy, 7724 Columbine Drive, has seen significant growth and financial assistance since the plan was implemented. The school’s enrollment has increased 23 percent in just five years. The 2014-2015 school year saw 231 students. Now, 284 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade are enrolled in the school, located off Dixie Highway in Pleasure Ridge Park. About 60 percent of the school’s 209 families receive tuition assistance, according to Butch Cripe, St. Andrew principal.
St. Andrew was established in 2005 through the merger of Our Lady of Consolation, St. Polycarp and St. Clement schools. It is the regional school of St. Peter the Apostle Church, which was formed in 2008 from the merger of St. Clement, Our Lady Help of Christians, Our Lady of Consolation, St. Polycarp and St. Timothy churches.
Cripe attributed the uptick in enrollment to a renewed excitement in the regional school.
“We’ve focused on welcoming families and building a sense of community. We let them know we want them to be here, that this is not just a place their child attends school,” said Cripe, who is in his first year as principal at St. Andrew.
Cripe said the school and parish have worked together to place a special focus on welcoming new families and building partnerships in the community.
Richard A. Lechleiter, president of the CEF, said that for the foundation to be successful, it’s important to assure families that tuition assistance will continue to be available as long as there’s need.
“We tell families if you join us today and you need help the answer is ‘yes.’ We also say if your situation doesn’t change and you need help in the future, we will be there for you,” he said in an interview last week.
Lechleiter said that multi-year commitment “means more to families than anything” but it also proves to be the foundation’s “greatest challenge.”
The foundation’s fundraising efforts must keep pace, he said.
Despite that challenge, Lechleiter said, the CEF, archdiocese and its parishes will never back off from their slogan of “the answer is yes.”
“We want to see growth in all schools. We want to continue to expand outreach. While some people might see that as an impossible dream, we will never back away from that,” he said.
While the current growth is encouraging, Lechleiter said the CEF is a long way from assisting every family that desires a Catholic education for their child.
“We can’t sit here and claim victory but we can be very proud of the fact that the (Catholic Elementary School) plan is working. We are going to get there,” he said.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz expressed gratitude for the “selfless generosity” of the parishioners and pastors of the 110 parishes in the archdiocese who help support the CEF.
“I am deeply thankful that we can come together with our funding partners to create so much hope for so many families.
“What began four years ago as a ‘New Day’ in Catholic education continues to gain momentum, positively impacting the lives of more and more families each year,” the archbishop said in the statement.
The Archdiocese of Louisville sponsors 40 elementary schools in central Kentucky with approximately 13,500 students. There are also nine Catholic high schools in the archdiocese with about 6,000 students.
A breakdown of the $6.4 million in funding shows the 110 parishes of the archdiocese provided $1.8 million. Adding to that total is $1.3 million from the archdiocese and $3 million from the CEF. Another $300,000 was provided by School Choice Scholarships, a private organization, and the Community Catholic Center, which helps students in Louisville’s West End attend Catholic schools.