An affordable Catholic education is within reach

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PROVIDENCE— Grateful students of Saint Raphael Academy wrote thank you valentines to the people who have made a difference in their lives. It was their way of showing a sincere appreciation to the generous people who have helped them receive a Catholic education.

At Saint Raphael Academy, in Pawtucket, 65 percent of the student body receives aid, according to Laura Loffredo, director of development. She explained that the average assistance offered is $2500 for the student in need.

“Saint Raphael Academy has a lot of working class people here but we also have a diversity of socio-economic backgrounds,” said Loffredo. “Our mission is to make a Catholic education available regardless of the financial situation.”

A Catholic education is well known for its success at challenging the student both academically and spiritually. Diocesan high schools throughout Rhode Island recognize that tuition can put a financial strain on some families who want a Catholic education for their children and offer financial assistance to assist these families.

A sampling of Catholic secondary schools from across the state shows the awareness of the need for financial assistance for students especially during the current economic state.

Much like the other diocesan high schools in the state, Saint Raphael Academy offers a variety of different scholarships during this academic year, including 31 named and memorial scholarships. Loffredo explained that the funds for financial assistance come from the school’s budget, local parishes, the diocese, and from the generosity of donors.

“We are very fortunate to have a lot of alums who say, ‘I know what it meant for me to go here and I want to fund it for someone else,’” said Loffredo. “We are very appreciative. It speaks to the value of Catholic education.”

La Salle Academy in Providence reports enrollment of 1460 students enrolled. According to Brother Michael Mc Kenery, FSC, president of the school, 34 percent of the student body receives financial assistance in order to make La Salle Academy possible for them. Brother Mc Kenery explained that aid is provided through different sources and primarily from endowed funds and through contributions from alums, faculty and staff, families at La Salle Academy and the De La Salle Christian Brothers. A number of the students receive grants of $750 or more through the Diocese and the Anchor of Hope funds.

“We work to help families by providing grants to 493 families totaling $1,747,450,” Brother Mc Kenery said. “We have established special funds to meet the needs of families who find themselves in crisis or special circumstances during the course of the academic year through the President’s Special Needs Fund, which is supported annually and generously through contributions by La Salle Academy alums and the families of students at La Salle Academy.”

La Salle is committed to keeping Catholic education as accessible as possible to current and future students, Brother Mc Kenery said.

“Our message to our alumni and alumnae is clearly focused on assistance and programs that serve the poor and hard working families who want the best for their children,” he said.

Brother Mc Kenery explained that a student and their family qualify for financial assistance through a process of verifying levels of income and demonstrated need.

“We serve families at La Salle Academy, some of whom live at the poverty level and below and other working middle class families who sacrifice greatly in order to provide the privilege of a Catholic education, who qualify for assistance and a strong number of families who do not need assistance but support and encourage the mission and purpose of the school and support its commitment to accessibility,” Brother Mc Kenery said.

At Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, Paul Danesi, Vice President for Operations, explained that for the 2009-2010 academic school year, 353 students received financial aid. He said that there were 399 registered students who requested assistance and that 46 families did not receive assistance because their income level was beyond what Hendricken was able to fund. Of the families who applied, Hendricken was able to grant financial aid awards to 88.5 percent.

“Bishop Hendricken has tried to make the total cost of tuition as affordable as possible for all,” said Danesi. “A combination of a tuition rate at approximately the average of all the Diocese of Providence secondary schools and a significant amount of available tuition assistance places Bishop Hendricken is an enviable position for affordability.”

In order to make a Catholic education affordable to low income families, Bishop Hendricken provided over $713,000 of financial aid grants for the current school year. Distributing financial aid to the 353 families judged to be in need, the average award given to a needy family was $2,020, said Danesi.

“Bishop Hendricken does not ordinarily award any grants for one-half of the total tuition or more,” said Danesi. “The philosophy is to extend assistance to as many families as possible rather giving large awards to a few families.”

In Riverside, at St. Mary Bay View Academy, 179 students will receive a total of $526,000 of need-based tuition assistance during this school year, 2009-2010. Along with financial assistance, Bay View has awarded 38 scholarships totaling $85,500, according to the school’s Director of Finance, Peter M. Costa.

“Bay View readily acknowledges the sacrifices made by the families of the students who attend to pay for tuition,” said Costa. “This commitment by the families is shared by the faculty and staff at Bay View. A concerted effort has been made to continue to provide the same superior programs that our students and their families have come to expect from Bay View, while scrutinizing all of the routine operating expenses and investigating all potential sources of revenue.”

Loffredo said that putting together a financial package can be a challenge, but it is worth any sacrifice to offer a Catholic education.

“It is a puzzle to put it together, but we really believe it is our mission and part of a good education for our kids to have the opportunity to experience diversity on a lot of levels,” said Loffredo. “Catholic education cannot just be for the affluent, its roots are with the working class.”

For more information about Catholic education and financial assistance please contact any of the following diocesan high schools: Saint Mary Academy Bay View, Our Lady of Fatima, Bishop Hendricken, Bishop Francis P. Keough, La Salle Academy, Mount Saint Charles Academy, The Prout School, Saint Raphael Academy.