March 13-19, 2003
By Kristen Fox / SUN staff writer
Students, parents and administrators know the value of a Catholic education. Catholic schools have a continued tradition of academic excellence in an environment that nurtures students’ spiritual growth. However, rising tuition costs and an uncertain economy make it difficult for some families to pursue a Catholic school education. Consequently, schools have been forced to find resources that will assist families wanting to enroll their children. Catholic Schools in Broome County have come up with innovative means to help ensure that every child has access to a Catholic school education.
“Catholic schools in the South are a success story,” said Danielle Cummings, diocesan director of the Office of Communications. “They have developed an effective plan to strengthen their school system which has helped them in securing additional resources for tuition assistance.”
In 2002, to address enrollment and financial issues, Broome County Catholic Schools came together and developed a strategic plan to strengthen the school system. One of the key components to the plan, said Dr. Paul King, Broome County Catholic Schools superintendent, is to make a serious effort to increase tuition assistance. With tuition costs rising and a weak economy, he said that something had to be done to help ease the financial burden on parents with children enrolled in Catholic schools.
“Catholic schools are part of the community in Broome County. We are privileged to have this quality education available for families,” said Dr. King. “They want to come and we want them to be able to afford it.” Each year Catholic schools throughout the diocese receive a certain amount of money for tuition assistance through programs such as HOPE Appeal, but this often only puts a small dent in what is really needed. Broome County Catholic Schools, through exploring other sources of revenue through parish contributions and the establishment of trust funds, have managed to raise an additional $70,000 to $90,000 for tuition assistance. According to Dr. King, the total amount available for tuition assistance for the 2003-2004 school year will exceed $100,000 –– which will help around 150 families. One of the funds helping with tuition assistance is the Scholarship Angels Fund, implemented in February of 2002. The angels’ fund calls on supporters of Catholic schools to help ease the financial burden for families through making donations ranging from $1-$500. Dr. King said that fundraising campaigns such as the Scholarship Angels Fund are part of an overall more aggressive strategy by Broome County Schools to supplement tuition assistance.
“Catholic schools in Broome County have become much more aggressive in soliciting help. We have made a serious effort at development. There are many people who are vested in ensuring the success of Catholic schools and are helping us to ensure that we continue to meet the needs of families,” Dr. King said.
Sister Patricia Coyle, MFIC, principal of St. Thomas Aquinas School in Binghamton, believes that Catholic schools in Broome County, through their dedication to increasing tuition assistance, are making a serious effort to do everything possible to help families. Families depend on tuition assistance, she said, adding that if more tuition dollars were available, this might influence parents’ decisions to choose a Catholic education for their children. “With greater tuition assistance we would likely see an increased number of students, especially on the kindergarten levels. This is very important because if we can attract families whose children are entering the lower grades then there is a greater chance that they will continue their education with Catholic schools,” Sister Coyle said.
Sister Coyle is grateful for the generous support of parishioners and community members. Their commitment, she said, enables Catholic Schools in Broome County to thrive. “There has been such a wonderful response from people in the area who are making donations and really want to help struggling families,” said Sister Coyle. “They realize that a Catholic education is a treasure.” Dr. King said that tuition assistance is a must to help ensure the longevity of Catholic schools in Broome County. During an uncertain time for many schools, he said fortunately Catholic schools in Broome County are going strong and are able to provide this kind of assistance to families.
“Tuition assistance makes a big difference to many families. It often determines whether they stay with or leave Catholic schools,” said Dr. King. “We will continue to pursue funds that will allow us to do provide help. Ultimately, we hope to be successful in meeting the needs of all families who need assistance.”