Parents take advantage of deals on tuition during difficult economic times
Virtually every student in area parochial schools is familiar with the admonition by Jesus to “render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar’s.”
In Ozaukee County, those rendered tax dollars support solid public schools.
Despite the stumbling economy, school administrators are finding many parents who are willing to pay even more than their tax bill to ensure their children get an education based on Christian values.
Rosemary School, the parochial school operated by Holy Rosary Parish in Fredonia, offered a toolbox of programs to entice families to enroll during the difficult economy.
A 75% tuition break was offered to families from the cluster of Catholic churches in northern Ozaukee and southern Sheboygan counties who are enrolling their children for the first time this year.
Former Rosemary School families whose families returned to the school this year were offered a 50% cut in tuition.
In addition, tuition assistance was offered to all families in need.
“We drew a couple new students and have been able to essentially maintain our enrollment,” Rosemary Principal Cathy Pohl said.
Enrollment is at 70 students this year. Programs are offered for preschool through sixth grade, with tuition starting at $1,870 and reduced rates for additional siblings.
Pohl said parents want to keep track of their options when it comes to financial assistance.
“I think we had more inquiries about scholarships last year when there was the big scare that people were going to lose their jobs. Now, at least, scholarships are not the first thing people ask about,” she said.
Once students arrive, Pohl said, they are well supplied, regardless of ability to pay.
“We take care of our kids. There is tremendous support of our school from the parish. They make sure every student has pencils and pens, notebooks, crayons — whatever is needed in the classroom,” she said.
Saukville’s independent Ozaukee Christian School was early to jump on the idea of tuition innovation, offering free kindergarten enrollment last year to parents who agreed to return their children to the school this year.
“We had 100% families return,” said OCS Principal Kris Austin in reviewing the success of the program.
A similar incentive for the upper grades had mixed results, Austin said.
Tuition for students in first through eighth grade was cut in half last year, again with the understanding the pupils would re-enroll this year.
Only one-third of those families returned this fall, although Austin said the rest resumed homeschooling their children.
This year, the non-denominational school offered a 50% tuition reduction for kindergartners.
“Overall, money is generally not the deciding factor for families here at OCS,” Austin said.
“It all comes down to what a family is really looking for in a school. Those parents who desire a Christian schooling experience for their children that mirrors their own evangelical world view
usually will re-prioritize their family’s expenses to accommodate the added expenditure. I have had parents share with me that providing Christian schooling for their children was the best
investment they ever made.”
Austin said the school, which was founded in 1990, offers financial aid to families that want a Christian education but cannot afford the cost.
Last year, 38% of the students received financial aid. Full tuition in first through eighth grades is $3,415.
Port Catholic School, which operates on campuses at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and St. Peter of Alcantara Catholic Church, both in Port Washington, has a tradition of working with families in difficult financial straits, according to Principal Lee Kaschinska.
“To the best of my knowledge, we have never turned away a student based on a family’s inability to pay,” Kaschinska said.
That ability to meet the needs of financially pressed families will grow as a new endowment fund receives contributions, he said.
“Our goal is to have a fund of $100,000, but of course even that level won’t generate much income now with interest rates where they are,” Kaschinska said.
Tuition discounts are offered to students from “member” parishes — Catholic churches in Port Washington, Saukville, Lake Church and Fredonia (in seventh and eighth grades).
Tuition for children of parish members is $2,645, and for non-members is $3,435. Reductions are offered for families with multiple children in the school, with free tuition for the fourth child from the same parish family.
“We’ve seen an increasing number of families requesting information about scholarships,” said Mary Stallmann, principal at St. Joseph Parish School in Grafton.
“There is still strong interest in our K-8 program. Parents like the idea of getting a Catholic education for their children, but the first thing they ask about is the cost. This is often before they even set foot inside the school.”
St. Joseph’s tuition is $2,25 per child. The school opened for classes this week with an enrollment of just under 200 students, only slightly lower than the school has averaged in recent years.
“I think 215 students would be a nice, comfortable number. We average about 15 students in a classroom, which is something parents really like about us,” Stallmann said.
She has been at St. Joseph’s for three years, and said the financial difficulties many families are experiencing has created an ideal opportunity for parish members to open their hearts.
Although the school has an ongoing endowment fund, the fund’s modest earnings of late weren’t able to make a significant dent in tuition costs.
That’s when the parish initiated a scholarship program, raising more than $80,000 to support tuition. With that money, 17 families received tuition assistance.
“We are very fortunate to get the kind of support we do from the parish,” Stallmann said.
That same sentiment was shared by Michael Yurk, principal at St. Paul Lutheran School in Grafton.
Classes began last week at St. Paul, with Yurk saying enrollment was “very strong” at 265 students.
Tuition for the K-8 program is $1,950, with a pre-school program option costing between $1,200 and $1,700.
“We raised our tuition by $50 this year, but we try to be very aware of the impact of the economy,” Yurk said.
He said tuition assistance is considered whenever it is requested by a parent.
“We do not want to deny any student because of their inability to pay,” Yurk said.
That means ongoing support of the school program by congregation members, even those who have no children enrolled.
“Our congregation does a great job of supporting the school. We wouldn’t be able to continue without them,” Yurk said.
STUDENTS SETTLED INTO their new surroundings Monday during a “back to school” open house at St. Joseph Parish School in Grafton. Classes in most Ozaukee County parochial schools started Wednesday. One way parents are able to save money at St. Joseph School is by recycling school uniforms. Photo by Mark Jaeger