St. Joseph’s offers tuition-assistance program for families in need

CHARLESTON — St. Joseph’s Cath olic School is reaching out a hand to families who want their children to attend parochial school but are daunted by the price tag.

The private school in Greenville created a new tuition assistance program for incoming freshman that will provide families in need with $1,000 to $7,300 for the 2009-10 school year, said Ann O’Dea, the school’s director of finance. Full tuition is $8,300.

She said the new plan will not adversely affect tuition programs already established for the upper grades.

O’Dea and Headmaster Keith Kiser spoke to The Miscellany in a phone interview and said they created the assistance fund to help students who have attended Catholic school all through elementary and middle school but cannot afford the jump in tuition for high school. It is also for the devout Catholic family who would love their child to have a religion-based education but cannot even consider it because of the cost.

O’Dea said middle school runs about $4,000 and high school is double that.

“If a family has the ability to pay the full tuition, they should. But we’re willing to go out and find the funds for the others,” Kiser said.

The school raised $525,000 for the tuition program through fund-raising efforts.

Kiser said every year they hear about families who do not consider attending St. Joseph’s because of the price tag, but he wants to change that.

Recently, he was talking to a fellow church member whose family is devoutly Catholic. The headmaster asked the young man, who is 20 now, if his parents had ever considered Catholic education for him and his siblings.

The answer was no. The father works on the production line of the BMW plant, and the young man said private school tuition was not in the budget.     

“Those are the families we want at our school,” Kiser said.

He added that St. Joseph’s has students who can afford the full tuition and students of significant need who attend on full financial scholarship. What the school is missing, Kiser said, are the middle class students who could attend with just a bit of help.

Maybe they need $1,000 or $4,000 to make it possible, and that is what the program is designed to do, he said.

Students apply to the school and for financial aid at the same time. O’Dea said the family’s tax returns are given to Tuition Aid Data Servers, which determines the level of need.

Kiser added that only he, O’Dea and one other school board member will be privy to the family’s financial records.

St. Joseph’s has 528 students, with a capacity for 560, plus space to expand their building, Kiser said.  

“Enrollment has actually gone up every year for the last 10 years,” he said. “We’re concerned about the economy obviously, going forward. The economy forced us to try to think creatively about how we fund our tuition assistance.”

Recently, approximately 17 parents of St. Joseph’s middle school students attended a meeting about the aid package. One man said he is debating whether to spend savings earmarked for college on high school tuition. Kiser hopes that he won’t have to make that choice now.

Another meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 26 for parents of students at other middle schools in the Greenville area, including Our Lady of the Rosary, St. Mary, St. Paul the Apostle and Prince of Peace.

For more information call Ann O’Dea, school director of finance, at (864) 234-9009 ext. 102.