Nearly $500,000 in tuition assistance grants are being awarded to 73 Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis as part of a transitional grant process put in place by the Aim Higher Foundation.
The aid — up to $15,000 per school and $1,000 per student — will be directed toward new students or retaining students from families in financial need. The schools were to be notified of their grant amounts April 12.
Every school that applied received grant money, said Karen Rauenhorst, chair of the foundation and member of Holy Name of Jesus in Medina. The schools include urban, suburban and rural schools throughout the 12-county archdiocese.
“Hopefully, for every family, these grants will have a significant impact on their decision about whether to send their child to a Catholic school,” she said. Some schools may combine the grants with other financial assistance available to them.
“Our goal is to really help to support our Catholic schools, to help increase the enrollment and to continue the tradition of high-quality Catholic schools,” Rauenhorst said.
Current and future grants will help children from low-income families, including those who have been struggling to make ends meet in a tough economy, said Father Michael O’Connell, a member of the Aim Higher Foundation board and pastor of Ascension parish in Minneapolis.
“This grant system could make a big difference [to a family] in terms of keeping a child or two children in Catholic schools,” he said.
In future years, families will apply directly to the foundation for tuition-assistance grants. The hope is that the amount available for scholarships might at some point range from $3 million to $5 million annually, Rauenhorst said.
Working with the community
The independent Aim Higher Foundation is reaching out for support to individuals, corporations and foundations that value Catholic education for what it gives students and how it benefits the broader community.
Some Aim Higher Foundation funds in the future may be directed toward other initiatives, such as school leadership development and innovative school programming. In carrying out its work, the foundation will communicate with the Catholic Community Foundation and other funds, such as the 2009 Pohlad Family Foundation grant and 2008 Legacy Grant that aid urban Catholic schools. It will also work closely with the Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Advisory Council.
To this point, the foundation has focused on elementary schools, Rauenhorst said.
“We have been meeting with the high schools,” she added. “They understand that hopefully someday they will be a part of this, too. They have their own funding sources . . . and their own programs set up and we don’t want to disturb that. But we would like to eventually be part of that.”
The Aim Higher Foundation is in the process of finalizing its board membership, which will include educators, pastors and other community leaders, Rauenhorst said. A “significant fundraiser” will likely be held early next year, she added.
For more information, visit the Aim Higher Foundation website.