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Scholarships help, but more needed to make big impact

Diocese stretching limited money for scholarships to help the ‘most needy’

Published: April 22, 2015   
Anissa Thompson /

The Catholic Schools Scholarship Appeal has gotten off to a slow start, raising only $33,525 in two years.

While the need for scholarships is great, Vernell Bowen, superintendent of schools, said 53 students have been able to be assisted so far.

The Catholic Schools Scholarship Appeal was created to fill in the gap between parents’ proven needs for scholarships and what the schools are able to provide. The gap for the 2014-2015 school year is more than $350,000.

In the fall of 2013 all parishioners received a letter in the mail for the first appeal. About $21,000 was donated from members at parishes with and without schools.

“There were equal donors and equal contributions from parishes without school as compared to parishes with school,” Bowen said. “This confirmed that there are many people who are interested and supportive of Catholic education even though they may not have a parish school.”

Bowen said the first appeal allowed the diocese to support 53 students with $300 to $400 each. The students came from eight schools that were determined to be the “most needy.”

The superintendent said the process of allocating the limited scholarship money was determined by the “calculated need” from a third-party company called Facts Tuition and Aid Management Company.

“This company assesses the calculated need based on the parents’ income,” Bowen said. “The Office of Catholic Schools in consultation with the principals assesses the information and determines who has the greatest need.”   

For the 2014-2015 school year, 20 of the 28 Catholic schools had parents apply through Facts.

“There was a variance of $352,563.00 between the calculated need and what the parishes and schools were able to offer in scholarship,” Bowen said. “Each school’s need was looked at individually and then the schools were prioritized by greatest need.”  

The schools assisted this school year were:

  • Fort Smith: Immaculate Conception and Trinity Junior High
  • North Little Rock: Immaculate Heart of Mary (Marche)
  • Little Rock: Mount St. Mary Academy, Our Lady of the Holy Souls, St. Edward and St. Theresa
  • Russellville: St. John

“The money received through the scholarship program helped some of our families remain in Catholic school,” St. John principal Mark Tyler said. “I encourage everyone to support this program.”

Dr. Jim Hattabaugh, principal of Trinity Junior High School, said his school received $4,400 to help 12 students. “The lack of scholarships or financial assistance for our students has a huge impact on our ability to meet the needs of our students and families,” he said.

“We continue to see the rise in need for financial assistance from our families each year yet have limited resources to meet this need.”

The second appeal was conducted in November. Flyers were sent to all parishes and were supposed to be inserted into the bulletins.

Bowen said $12,525 has been received to be disbursed for scholarships in the 2015-2016 school year. 

Anyone interested in donating to the Catholic Schools Scholarship Appeal can send a check to Catholic Schools, Diocese of Little Rock, P.O. Box 7565, Little Rock, AR 72217.

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