Financial Aid is Available for Catholic School Students
Maria Almaraz and Pedro Guzman are the parents of five children, and four of them are school age. They want their children to attend a school that offers both academic excellence and an environment that supports their Catholic faith, morals and values. Like many parents, they believe Catholic education is the best choice.
Because Catholic schools have to charge tuition to operate, this expense can be a barrier for families. Parochial school tuition for four children was beyond the Guzman-Almaraz family budget.
Members of Sacred Heart Parish in Austin, they learned through their pastor, Father Mark Hamlet, that considerable financial aid is available. With his encouragement, they visited the website of the Cathedral School of St. Mary and learned about tuition assistance. Today, thanks to their pastor’s outreach, their own initiative, and financial aid, their children are students in kindergarten, second, fourth and fifth grades.
Diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, Misty Poe, said the diocese and individual schools are committed to removing barriers that keep students from enrolling, and a big barrier is the cost of tuition.
“Catholic schools are an extension of the church’s mission to evangelize and foster faith-filled families. Studies show that students who attend Catholic schools are more likely to continue their faith life, serve their community, and be involved in the church,” Poe said. As an investment in the future, the schools and the diocese want to work with families so that their children can attend.
Poe emphasized that no family should assume they make too much money to qualify for financial aid. Nor should any family let pride or embarrassment keep them from applying. Of the over 5,300 Catholic school students in the 20 Catholic schools within the diocese, more than one third receive some form of financial aid. As the circumstances of each family are different, often the schools are able to approach financial aid in creative and holistic ways.
This aid comes from different sources, including the scholarship funds of individual schools; parish support in partnerships with schools; the Saints & Scholars diocesan fundraising event; the diocese’s Catholic Foundation; and the Catholic Services Appeal.
In addition to this aid, another important source comes from outside the diocese. ACE Scholarships are for new students and can be used in partner schools, which include many Catholic schools within the diocese. Although the schools are not involved in choosing the scholarship recipients, they help families apply. If a student is approved for an ACE Scholarship, this scholarship can be renewed each year up through 12th grade.
The first step for parents who are considering Catholic education is to contact the school. The schools will do their best to ensure that students from families dedicated to Catholic education are able to attend.
Marian Alonso, the admissions director of the Cathedral School of St. Mary in Austin, explained the process for receiving tuition assistance. After contacting the school, the parents, on behalf of the student, apply to be admitted. Parents should not assume upfront that they will not be able to afford the tuition or that they make too much money to qualify for tuition assistance.
After the student is accepted and the parents know that paying the tuition will be a challenge, they and the school explore financial aid options. Through a third-party company, the parents complete an application to determine financial need, a process that is similar to applying for college financial aid. The family then works with the school to bridge the gap between need and the different sources of aid.
Alonso emphasized that there is no stigma at all for the students receiving scholarship assistance. With so many students receiving tuition assistance, families have no reason to feel isolated or “different.”
The ACE Scholarship, along with other financial aid, have allowed the four Guzman-Almaraz children to attend Cathedral School. Based on her experience, Maria Almaraz encourages families not to assume that a Catholic education is beyond their means.
“As parents, we look for what is best for our kids. You don’t have anything to lose to ask if help is available,” Almaraz said.
For more information, parents are encouraged to contact the principal or admissions director for the Catholic school of their choice. For a list of Catholic schools in the diocese and more information about financial aid, visit csdatx.org/explore.