Goal is to start accepting applications for scholarships beginning with the 2013-2014 school year
Giving more students the opportunity to obtain a Catholic education by providing need-based scholarships is the goal of a new foundation being formed in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
The independent Aim Higher Foundation — which takes its name from the recently announced Aim Higher archdiocesan marketing campaign for Catholic schools — is seeking contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations that value Catholic education for what it gives students and how it benefits the broader community.
“The goal is to allow more children the life-changing experience of Catholic schools — kids from across the archdiocese who wouldn’t be able to attend otherwise,” said foundation chair Karen Rauenhorst, a community volunteer, trustee of the archdiocese and member of Holy Name of Jesus in Medina.
“Our students in Catholic schools are a community asset, and so we’re going to be looking to the community to help fund some of these scholarships,” she said. “As adults, they will be holding jobs in the community. They will have strong ethical formation, know what’s right and wrong, and have a basis for making good decisions. That benefits everyone.”
Finishing the groundwork
The foundation is in the process of finalizing its bylaws and board membership, Rauenhorst said. Next on the agenda will be determining eligibility requirements for the need-based scholarships and creating an application process.
In a talk last August laying out his vision for Catholic schools, Archbishop John Nienstedt noted that in 2011, a local parent survey participated in by more than 2,500 parents or guardians of school-age or soon-to-be-school-age children found that tuition costs were the most significant negative factor associated with Catholic schools in their school decision-making process.
The foundation hopes its work will make Catholic school education more accessible to families that want one for their children.
The foundation board, which will include educators, pastors and other community leaders, hopes to have its first meeting prior to May 1 and its first “significant fundraiser” within the next year, Rauenhorst said.
She anticipates the foundation will be ready to accept applications for scholarships beginning with the 2013-2014 school year. There will be a small initial grant in 2012-2013, which will be a transitional year. The foundation has begun receiving funds and has set up an account with the Catholic Community Foundation to hold those assets.
“When we look at the need currently, we would like in 10 years to have this foundation probably at $30-$40 million so that we could really fund Catholic education,” Rauenhorst said.
The total amount of scholarships available for Catholic school students could range from $3-$5 million annually based on rough estimates, Rauenhorst said.
Some foundation funds might be directed to additional initiatives, such as innovative school programming, but the foundation will not be raising money to construct new school buildings or renovate existing ones.
“This is not a bricks-and-mortar foundation; we’re not going to be out there building schools,” she said. “We’re supporting the students and the education environment that they’re in.”
The Aim Higher Foundation will coordinate its work with the Catholic Community Foundation, which sponsors a tuition assistance program, and other funds such as the 2009 Pohlad Family Foundation grant and 2008 Legacy Grant that aid urban Catholic schools. Each of the latter grants annually provides approximately $1 million in school aid and tuition assistance.
The foundation also will work closely with the newly formed Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Advisory Council. “They will help us look at what the needs are, so we can help support students financially,” Rauenhorst said.
A parent who has sent her own children to Catholic schools, Rauenhorst said she feels a new confidence and enthusiasm for Catholic education in the 15 months since the archdiocese’s strategic plan for parishes and schools was announced, and in light of recommendations made last August by the Catholic Schools Commission.
“I realize for some schools, it’s been very difficult over the past several years, especially given the economic downturn,” she said. “Some have had to downsize, some have had to join forces with other Catholic schools, and some have actually had to close.
“We’re going to continue to have very strong, high-quality Catholic schools,” she added. “Archbishop Nienstedt is committed to keeping Catholic schools open and making them affordable to everybody. That’s a movement we can all get behind, and I’ve decided that this is what I’m committing my time and energy to right now because I want to see it succeed.”