COLUMBIA—St. Peter School has started a tuition assistance program for the 2010-2011 school year.
Kathy Preston, the new principal, said she arrived in May and immediately began to receive calls from parents about financial aid and had to tell them there wasn’t anything available.
Meanwhile, Msgr. Leigh A. Lehocky, pastor of St. Peter Church, and Emily Hero, parish life coordinator, had also noticed the school’s need.
Together, they created the Tuition Assistance Fund for Children in Need and have a goal of raising $50,000 to help families afford Catholic education.
“If you’ve had a Catholic school education, you understand what a gift you’ve received and you want to pay it back to the next generation,” Hero said.
The Friends of St. Peter School Committee are in the process of raising money now and have just over $10,000 toward their goal.
They have planned a Christmas drive, and in January the Knights of Columbus will host a fundraising breakfast, Hero said.
Preston praised the entire community, and said Catholic education is a church ministry that needs the support of everyone to make it successful.
“We’ve had some wonderful responses,” she said. “People at St. Peter parish have been very supportive and generous.”
Preston said there is still a great demand for Catholic education and hopes scholarships will enable more people to attend. Enrollment at St. Peter this year is 115, with a capacity for 180.
She added that her goal is to create a fund that will not be a onetime thing, but continue year to year. To that end, Preston would like to set aside a percentage from the school’s existing fundraisers for tuition assistance.
The school committee is working on guidelines to make sure applicants have a genuine financial need, Hero said.
She pointed out that the need for assistance is not singular to the Diocese of Charleston, but is a national trend, and said the reasons lie in several factors:
- The decline of vocations—In 1967, about 60 percent of the teaching force was comprised of nuns, priests and brothers. Today, it is less than 4 percent.
- The money issue—Schools pay more money to hire lay teachers and principals, who do not take a vow of poverty.
- Changing demographics—City schools lost many affluent families to the suburbs.