The challenges for Catholic schools continue across the country. U.S. Catholic school enrollment reached its peak during the early 1960’s when there were more than 5.2 million students in almost 13,000 schools across the nation. Since that time, the Catholic Church in the U.S. has lost nearly half (48%) of its schools and has suffered a 63% decline in enrollment. Most of the impact has been felt at the elementary level.
In response to these growing challenges, the Lafayette Catholic School System diocesan officials, school leaders, and other stakeholders in Catholic education have developed innovative and promising approaches to improving the sustainability of our schools. School governance and finance have been a central focus of these efforts. One of the most important funding strategies has been the use of Tax Credit Scholarships.
Tax Credit Scholarships were enacted by the State of Indiana in 2009 and were expanded as part of the 2011 Choice Bill. Indiana’s tax credit scholarship program offers individuals and corporations a tax credit for donations to “scholarship granting organizations.” Taxpayers receive a credit worth 50 percent of the donation made with no maximum credit. While there are no limits to how much a donor can contribute to a qualified scholarship granting organization, the entire tax credit program cannot award more than $9.5 million in credits this fiscal year (July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017) (per Indiana Code 6-3.1-30.5). It is estimated these credits will run out before the end of 2016.
Who is Eligible?
A student is eligible to apply for the program if the student is a member of a household with an annual income of not more than 200% of the amount required to qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program (Indiana Code 20-51-1-5). As I often tell people, this does not simply help our low-income families, but it also has a significant impact on middle-income families who desire a Catholic education for their children.
The average cost to educate a 9th -12th grader at Central Catholic Jr. – Sr. High School is over $9,000 per pupil. The challenge of affordability remains the number one barrier to Catholic school growth and ensuring everyone who desires a Catholic education has the ability to receive it.
Since 2012 – 2013, the financial aid impact of Tax Credit Scholarships has increased almost 600%. Last year, we awarded nearly $212,000 to 121 students who applied for aid and financially qualified. The total impact for the 2016 – 2017 school year is expected to grow considerably. The financial aid office estimates approximately 200 children will need over $330,000 in Tax Credit Scholarships to financially afford LCSS.
Donors (individuals or businesses) are eligible to take advantage of a 50% credit against their state tax liability for these contributions. Gifts are also tax-deductible to the full extent of the federal charitable tax laws. Donors may reduce the full amount they have paid or will owe the State of Indiana. Donors may rollover any unused credits for an additional nine years and may designate the specific school they wish to support.
Fulfilling the Mission
The Lafayette Catholic School System, centered on Jesus Christ, educates the whole person in a culture that is:
- sustained by Gospel witness and service;
- imbued with a Catholic worldview;
- supported by a community of faith;
- distinguished by academic excellence; and
- committed to student success.
Tax Credit Scholarships, along with so many other avenues, ensure that all eligible families in our community have the opportunity to attend the Lafayette Catholic School System. If you or your business would like to support a child or have questions, please contact our Advancement Office at (765) 474-7500 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.