By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator

Tuition for Catholic schools in the Diocese of Baton Rouge covers a broad spectrum, but superintendent Dr. Melanie Verges says the sacrifice is well worth the investment.

Although Catholic school education might stretch the family budget, the sacrifice is well worth the investment, superintendent of Catholic Schools Dr. Melanie Verges said. For the story, please turn to page 9. A chart listing the tuition for all of the Catholic schools is on page 19. Photo by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator

 

Figures recently released by the Catholic Schools Office reveal that tuition can range from $4,000 to $5,000 annually for elementary schools and close to $12,000 for high schools. It should be noted that the tuition does not cover additional fees, such as registration, technology and building and maintenance.

Also, those costs may vary depending on in-parish and out-of-parish fees.

“The cost of tuition for the quality of program parents receive through Catholic schools is extremely value added for the expense,” said Verges, a long time Catholic educator.

“The money that you spend now to put your child in a Catholic school is money well spent,” she added.  “It is an investment in your child’s life, an investment in your child’s formation.”

Despite tuition costs that may stretch the family budget, Verges was emphatic when discussing how a Catholic education can actually pay dividends via college scholarships. She recalls her own personal experience as a parent as well as many other families whose children earned college scholarships, thereby dramatically reducing the cost of a college education.

“You can pay now or pay later,” she said, paraphrasing a once popular automotive parts advertising jingle.

The proof is in the numbers. Ninety-nine percent of students in the Class of 2017 have gone on to college. Additionally, the senior class combined earned more than $51 million in college scholarships.

Additionally, more than $12 million of TOPS money was awarded to graduating seniors.

Graduates also earned 2,937 in advanced credits.

“It’s a huge sacrifice to bring our kids to Catholic schools,” admitted Carolyn Landry, who attended Our Lady of Mercy School and St. Joseph’s Academy, both in Baton Rouge, and who also sent her kids to Catholic schools. “It’s worth it because to me it’s the morals, the values and bringing our children up in an atmosphere of love.”

Landry, a member of the Diocesan School Board, said enrolling her children in a school where they pray daily and receive the sacraments also played a role in shaping their lives.

“Gospel values are important to us,” Landry said. “The most important thing in life is getting to heaven. Spending money to have your kids in an environment that shows that way is worth it.”

Verges said meshing the teaching of Gospel values with academics is only part of what sets Catholic education apart. She said Catholic educators develop the entire student through faith formation, encouraging each student to reach their potential and even in the way students are taught to think.

“The way we develop the whole child by encouraging talent, the way we develop the children to be critical thinkers so they can embrace the future in a way to be good citizens and good leaders (all are borne out of a Catholic education),” she added. “It’s all about priorities.”

Outside of the classroom, schools require their students to perform a set number of service hours annually, driving home the point of ministering to others. Those service hours can be served in a number of ways, such as volunteering at the St. Agnes soup kitchen in Baton Rouge, assisting the elderly at a nursing home or even going on mission trips.

According to the Catholic Schools Office, students performed more than 200,000 combined service hours during the 2016-17 school year.

Landry said teaching a student to live the Gospel values through service hours guided her daughter when selecting a college sorority to join. She said her daughter based her decision on a particular organization’s commitment to philanthropy.

“I thought that was really awesome,” Landry said. “If she had gone to a (non-Catholic) school I don’t think she would have done that.

Verges noted there is a maturity and a wisdom woven into the fabric of a Catholic school environment that is not found elsewhere. She also said the service hours are part of the culture in the Diocese of Baton Rouge that is positive and reinforces faith formation, and the faithful development of children.

Verges said that each diocesan school sets its own tuition in collaboration with the pastor in church parishes. Private Catholic schools set their tuition through their boards.

Enrollment can play a critical role in determining tuition, but Verges emphasized that all principals work diligently to keep their tuition reasonable while still trying to balance a budget.

“(Principals) are extremely sensitive to raising tuition,” she said.

Many schools also offer partial tuition assistance and can often be funded through the Bishop’s Annual Appeal, which traditionally donates $75,000 to a tuition assistance fund. Additionally, some schools build partial scholarship assistance into their annual budgets.

“I think sometimes Catholics take for granted Catholic schooling,” Verges said. “It’s always been good. These schools were built and staffed by (religious) brothers and sisters who literally lived their job, their profession, their ministry. This is the legacy we are continuing as lay Catholics. We see it very much as a ministry.”