By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published May 18, 2017 | En Español
DECATUR—For principal Susanne Greenwood, the archdiocesan Welcome Grants played a significant role in getting parents to take a look at St. Peter Claver Regional School.
The Decatur school is moving closer to its enrollment target, in large part because the grants eased parents’ financial costs, Greenwood said.
“Many of our families desirous of a Catholic education for their children demonstrate financial need. With the yearly support of the archdiocese and its many parishes, we are able to make this valuable education possible and affordable. And now the Welcome Grants support that even more,” Greenwood said.
The Welcome Grants encourage new Catholic families to enroll at specific archdiocesan schools with the capacity for more students. Welcome Grants debuted last year. The opportunity is now being expanded to five schools for the 2017-2018 school year. Parents near St. Mary’s School in Rome, which serves kindergarten through eighth grade, can apply for one of the 40 grants for the first time.
“The grants are issued on a first-come, first-served basis and are an incentive for families to make the choice for Catholic school. We’re confident they will love it,” said Rebecca Hammel, associate superintendent of Catholic schools, in a news release.
In 2016, the Office of Catholic Schools created the incentive by lowering financial barriers for families to give four archdiocesan schools a try. Students can be as young as entering pre-kindergarten or as advanced as 11th grade. They cannot be currently enrolled in another local Catholic school.
Greenwood said the Decatur regional school saw a mix of families enroll for the first time, some moving to metro Atlanta from out-of-state, some from a home-school program, a few from the parish of Sts. Peter and Paul where the school is located, and some from other parishes.
St. Peter Claver saw a 15 percent increase in student enrollment, in large part because of this initiative, she said. Some 125 students are expected this fall.
The grants are awarded to students for two years and reduce tuition by $2,500 the first year and $1,500 the second year at elementary schools and $4,000 in year one and $2,500 in year two at the high school.
In its inaugural program, 34 grants, totaling $141,000 for two years, were awarded to new students attending Our Lady of Victory School, Tyrone; Our Lady of Mercy High School, Fayetteville; St. John Neumann Regional School, Lilburn; and St. Peter Claver.
At St. John Neumann, principal Alex Porto called the grants “a real blessing to our school.”
Families claimed all 10 of the available grants there, he said.
“We have not only been able to attract new families to our school and boost our enrollment, but we have been able to carry on our mission to provide an affordable, quality Catholic education for the Catholic students in our community,” he said.
The program is a “great incentive to get people in the door and make them aware of our school,” he said.
These scholarships are modeled after programs in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Omaha, Nebraska. Educational leaders have said there is a high retention rate for these new students once the two-year grants end.
Hammel said in a news release, “We truly believe a Catholic education can do more for students and for the family by nourishing the spiritual needs of our young brothers and sisters.”
In the Atlanta Archdiocese, there are three archdiocesan high schools and 15 archdiocesan elementary schools.