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Bishop’s Education Fund helps hundreds of families

By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
(Email Renee)

The tuition bill for several hundred students in the Diocese of Sioux City will be a little smaller because of a tuition assistance program entering its second year.

Marilyn Wellman, diocesan accountant, reported 542 students were awarded Bishop’s Education Fund tuition grants for the 2014-2015 school year. Students from 13 of the diocese’s 16 Catholic schools received funds totaling more than $160,000.

“We awarded up to $300 per recipient this year. Last year, we awarded up to $250,” she noted.

Kristie Arlt, diocesan director of stewardship and communication, said the diocese opted to establish this new fund to help families that did not quality for Msgr. Lafferty Tuition Foundation funding, but still need help with tuition.

Families with the greatest financial need, those with incomes reaching up to 300 percent of income deemed by the state to be poverty level can qualify for Msgr. Lafferty assistance. For the new Bishop’s Education Fund, families whose income falls between 301 and 400 percent of that level can qualify.

John Steffes, foundation director at Kuemper Catholic School in Carroll, said the Bishop’s Education Fund has been very timely for Kuemper as more families are applying for tuition assistance. 

“For this upcoming school year, there were 551 Kuemper students who applied for tuition assistance,” he said. “Last year 456 students applied for assistance so that shows the increasing need.  There are also more families that just miss the Msgr. Lafferty guidelines, so the Bishop’s Education Fund has been very helpful.”

For the 2014-2015 school year, Kuemper families will receive $27,900 in tuition assistance from the Bishop's Education Fund.  

A parent wrote to school president, Vern Henkenius this year: "It would have been almost impossible for our daughter to attend Kuemper without tuition assistance.  We are now able to make ends meet.  You have played a large part in making our daughter's dream of graduating from Kuemper Cathoic High School come true.”

Patty Lansink, principal at St. Rose of Lima School in Denison, said some families in the past didn’t want to apply for tuition assistance because they didn’t think they would qualify, but this new fund helps broaden the reach.

“It helps the middle income families that made too much money to quality for Msgr. Lafferty but they also need a little help to make Catholic education possible for them,” she said. “Any bit of tuition assistance that families can receive is helpful and I think they are grateful for it.”

Wellman acknowledged there are probably more families out there who could qualify, but since it is only in its second year, they still have to work on getting the word out.

Along with income qualification, Wellman said recipients much be registered at a parish in the Diocese of Sioux City. Verification of parish registration and school enrollment will be done later this summer.

Several revenue sources fund the Bishop’s Education Fund including the Diocesan Annual Appeal, the cathedraticum (tax paid by all parishes to the diocese), private donations and this year the Catholic School Foundation provided funds.

“It’s wonderful that all of our parishes are supporting it,” said Arlt, who noted that tuition gifts offered by the new fund have been a wonderful start, but acknowledged, “It’s just scratching the surface of what we need to help our families in a meaningful way.”

Those interested in supporting this fund should call the Office of Stewardship at (712) 233-7524.

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