By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
As the 2016-17 academic year commences, a record number of Catholic school students will receive tuition assistance from the Archdiocese of Louisville and its parishes, the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF) and its partners.
In the second year of the Catholic Elementary School Plan — a joint initiative of the archdiocese and the CEF — tuition assistance awards totaled $5.8 million, which is up 16 percent from last year’s total of $5 million.
The number of students receiving assistance also rose by 306 to a record high of 2,650, which represents a 13 percent increase over last year’s total.
Richard A. Lechleiter, CEF president, said the momentum around Catholic schools has never been higher.
“The future growth and enrollment of Catholic schools in central Kentucky is extremely bright,” he said in a phone interview last week.
Lechleiter noted that nearly every one of the 40 elementary schools are receiving more assistance than in previous years. And, for the second year in a row, every applicant who demonstrated need received an award.
“I think the whole community is really rallying around ‘The answer is yes,’ ” he said, quoting the foundation’s mantra and slogan. “We’ve see it in the number of applications.”
Applicants are up 15 percent from last year. To date, the foundation has received about 3,200 requests for tuition assistance. That number is still growing, Lechleiter said, noting the foundation has seen a surge in applications in the last two weeks.
Last year a couple weeks prior to the start of school, the foundation received 15-20 financial assistance requests. This year, it has received 75 requests in the last two weeks.
“I tell schools if someone knocks on your doors this afternoon, tell them ‘The answer is yes.’ Do not say ‘It’s too late,’ ” he said.
Lechleiter also noted the totals reflect the addition of three independent Catholic schools: Immaculata Classical Academy, Holy Angels Academy and Corpus Christi Classical Academy in Simpsonville, Ky.
In a joint press release issued by the archdiocese and the CEF, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz expressed gratitude for the continued progress to improve access to Catholic education.
“The selfless generosity of all 110 Catholic parishes and their pastors across central Kentucky to support the education of our young people is so meaningful to the future of Christ’s Church,” he said.
A breakdown in funding shows the 110 parishes of the archdiocese provided $1.8 million. Adding to that total is $1.2 from the archdiocese and $2.5 from the CEF. Another $300,000 was provided by School Choice Scholarships, a private organization, and the Community Catholic Center, which assists students in Louisville’s West End to attend Catholic schools.
“The answer really is yes,” Lechleiter said. “It’s not only a slogan but a mandate.”