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Msgr. Lafferty awards millions in tuition assistance

By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
(Email Renee)

More money than ever will help families with Catholic school tuition in the 2014-2015 school year thanks to the Msgr. Lafferty Tuition Foundation.

According to Marilyn Wellman, diocesan accountant, families were recently notified through letter about tuition grants their children will receive for the coming school year. Msgr. Lafferty dollars distributed were over $2.25 million, increasing funds by about $115,000 over last year.

“There were 2,275 awards recipients,” she said. “This is up 40 recipients from last year – comparing May to May.”

She said every year more families apply for tuition grants.

Dan Goebel, development and enrollment director at Spalding Catholic School in Alton and Granville, spoke of the significance of Lafferty funds that allow families to choose a Catholic education for their children.

“It has been a great blessing to them to be able to choose Spalding Catholic and all Catholic schools I am sure are in the same situation,” he said. “It’s given our families the opportunity to be able to attend Spalding. Those families who would not have been able to because of tuition costs, the Msgr. Lafferty Fund has helped make it affordable.”

Goebel said many families have expressed appreciation for this fund and one family who enrolled in Spalding Catholic School last year specifically mentioned they would have not been able to do it without assistance.

Tom Miklo, development director at St. Edmond Catholic School in Fort Dodge, said the Msgr. Lafferty Tuition Foundation has done exactly what it set out to do: “Keep families and students in our school system.”

“I know initially I was a little concerned that it might have a negative impact on our annual fundraising, but it has not done that,” he stressed. “Instead, it has allowed us to reach out to more and more families and provide them with much needed assistance to help them stay in our Catholics schools.”

Miklo said families are extremely excited and grateful for this opportunity to attend Catholic schools.

“The diocese has done a masterful job in handling the program,” he said. “It’s been a win-win for everyone.”

Kristie Arlt, diocesan director of stewardship and communications, agreed that the program is beneficial for those who receive the awards and also those who contribute.

The Msgr. Lafferty Tuition Foundation and other school tuition organizations in the state were established in 2006 after former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack signed the Educational Opportunities Act. The legislation allowed private schools to establish STOs that provide huge tax advantages to donors. Iowa taxpayers with a tax liability may receive a 65 percent tax credit on their gift to an STO, plus other federal deductions may apply.

“What I love about the Lafferty fund is that it not only benefits families, but benefits the donors in a tremendous way,” said Arlt.

Parents had until early April 1 to apply for Msgr. Lafferty funds. The diocese uses Private School Aid Service (PSAS) as a third party administrator of Lafferty dollars and other tuition assistance programs.

Given that it is a state program, families must meet certain guidelines to receive funding, including income not being over 300 percent of poverty.

Wellman pointed out that the amount of tuition grants range from a minimum of $300 to a maximum of 75 percent of tuition.

She explained there is an enrollment verification process in August. Grants made from money awarded to students who end up not attending Catholic schools is then used for a second distribution of Lafferty funds in the fall, mainly for students who are new to Catholic schools.

Along with tuition grants through the Msgr. Lafferty Tuition Foundation, the award letters also announced assistance offered through the Bishop’s Education Fund and Catherine Birzle Education Trust. And in some cases, local school assistance were also included in the notification.

Want tax credits?

And while tuition grants just announced, Arlt noted they are just gearing up to raise funds for this year’s campaign that will benefit students for the 2015-2016 school year.

Last year Iowa legislators increased tax credits to $12 million throughout the state and that means this year’s Lafferty goal is bigger.

“Our goal is a little over $3 million. We have $800,000 extra to raise this year,” Arlt said. “It’s a very lofty goal. We are gearing up for marketing these funds because we are going to have to reach out to our non-Catholic population to ensure that we sell out of the tax credits.”

If someone plans to make a donation to the fund in order to receive the tremendous tax benefits, she urged them to do so by Nov. 1 to ensure the availability of tax credits.

For more information about securing tax credits through MLTF, contact the Office of Stewardship at Central Catholic Offices at (712) 233-7524 or your local Catholic school. Find more information at the Diocese of Sioux City’s website. Go to www.scdiocese.org, then click on the Stewardship tab and scroll to Msgr. Lafferty Tuition Foundation.

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