Reserve Fund offers emergency tuition support for Catholic school families

| March 15, 2019 | 0 Comments

Principal Nikki Giel of Presentation of Mary in Maplewood credits annual Aim Higher Foundation scholarships with making it financially possible for a quarter of her 141 K-8 students to attend the suburban Catholic school.

“We have a large need of financial assistance at our school, larger than we and the parish can offset or subsidize,” Giel said.

But some families need help midyear because of extenuating financial circumstances, a need not met by the annual $1,000 scholarships Aim Higher grants to qualifying students.

So the St. Paul-based nonprofit is stepping up again, this time to meet that challenge and retain those students. On Feb. 26, Aim Higher started a Tuition-Assistance Reserve Fund program, also with a $1,000 scholarship for each K-8 student from a family in need. Six schools with families in need applied for it within the first week.

“Ultimately, this fund is another way to fulfill our obligation … that we’re going to do everything possible for everyone possible to make a Catholic education available to as many kids as possible,” Aim Higher President Jean Houghton said.

Since 2011, Aim Higher has supported Catholic school families in need around the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis with its annual scholarships.

Giel said she also sees families face unforeseen challenges, such as job loss or major illness, which warrant more scholarship help.

As members of Aim Higher’s school leader advisory committee, Giel and others shared their concern in a 2018 fall meeting. All nine members urged Aim Higher officials to start a program in response to the need.

“Every school represented said they experience at least one family per year who experiences sudden and unexpected financial hardship — a loss of a job, death in the family, or serious medical situation,” Houghton said. “The committee hoped our foundation could find a way to help keep these children enrolled in a Catholic school when their family’s ability to pay tuition came under pressure from extenuating circumstances.”

Under the new program, Aim Higher will help children of families facing sudden financial difficulties at any point during the school year. Families can contact their school to request the scholarship, and the school will contact Aim Higher about the need. The funds will go to the families immediately upon approval by Aim Higher and continue supporting the students through the eighth grade. Continuing the scholarship into future years recognizes that families’ extenuating circumstances can mean prolonged financial needs.

Funds for the new program will come from money made available when families who are awarded an annual Aim Higher scholarship choose not to attend Catholic school.

“Before Aim Higher had implemented their program, we have had to work with the family, and it’s a loss to us, (if the family leaves),” said Kari Staples, principal of St. Alphonsus School in Brooklyn Center. “Hopefully this will be something that we’ll be able to retain these families (with).”

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