(SNR) – The Diocese of Lincoln formally announced the formation of The Good Shepherd Scholarship Fund Jan. 29 to support low-income students and families in need of financial assistance to attend diocesan Catholic schools.
The scholarship will benefit students who attend Catholic schools in the Lincoln Diocese, by offering $900 to $1,300 per student in tuition assistance next year and increased in future years. In addition, a minimum diocesan tuition standard in Lincoln Diocese Catholic Schools has been set.
A letter to school parents explained that many parishes and schools in the Lincoln Diocese are struggling financially to continue subsidizing their Catholic schools at the same rate as in the past, due to increasing salaries and other costs needed to effectively administer schools.
For a school to be eligible for the Good Shepherd Scholarship program, tuition needs to be set at or above $1,700 for high schools and $1,300 for grade schools.
The Good Shepherd Scholarship will provide up to 75% of tuition, up to a maximum amount each year. The scholarship is available for families that are within 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.
The minimum tuition standard was necessary to support a standard scholarship program across the diocese. More importantly, though, it also increases the financial sustainability of the schools and the parishes that support them.
The schools will work five-year plans to increase minimum teacher salary levels and to ensure that parish assessments and support for the schools doesn’t exceed a standard level. This ensures that parishes have the resources to support spiritual development in their communities through formative programs and mission work, while still supporting the important mission of Catholic education for youth.
By coordinating the introduction of the Good Shepherd Scholarship with the announcement of a new minimum tuition standard, the diocese is able to offer additional financial resources to schools that serve low income families and to support families in need across the diocese.
The Good Shepherd Scholarship will have an initial commitment to provide scholarships for families who are within 200% of the national poverty level, but this may be expanded to include more students in the future, based on fundraising and support from donors.
“Through the Good Shepherd Scholarship, along with individual school tuition discounts and localized scholarships, students will continue to benefit from affordable tuition in the Lincoln Diocese, and families in need will be able to get additional financial assistance to cover tuition costs,” said Bishop James Conley.
The diocese estimates that 1,300 to 1,500 students will receive Good Shepherd Scholarships this year, amounting to $2 million to $2.5 million in total scholarships.
Any family may also apply for a Family Tuition Cap Scholarship in all Lincoln Diocese Catholic Schools, regardless of income level. A maximum of three students from a family will be charged tuition; all other students are eligible for a full tuition scholarship, even if students are in multiple Diocesan schools.
The Good Shepherd Scholarship Fund was established with the remaining funds in the Joy of the Gospel campaign that were allocated to schools. Additional fundraising efforts will increase the fund in the future, ensuring access to an excellent, affordable Catholic education for any student.
“No child will ever be turned away from our schools because of financial need,” said Dr. Matthew Hecker, chief administrative officer of Lincoln Diocese Catholic Schools.
“Offering a truly authentic, Christ-centered education for our youth is an important mission of the Catholic Church and is paramount,” said the letter to parents, “for our children, our families and the future of our church.
“The new tuition program and the Good Shepherd Scholarship are essential for ensuring that our schools will be vibrant and sustainable long into the future,” he continued. “The importance of this educational mission and the benefits to our children and families cannot be underestimated.”
The Lincoln Diocese is nationally recognized for the benefits of its Catholic education system and the effect it has had on students, families, parishes and communities. Many benefits have come from the support for affordable Catholic education, including an abundance of priests, seminarians and religious.
Good Shepherd Scholarship applications will be available starting this February for the 2019-2020 school year. Additional information about the Good Shepherd Scholarship Fund and a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) can be found at www.goodshepherdscholarship.com.