Los Angeles, Calif., Jun 18, 2021 / 19:01 pm (CNA).
An anonymous donor has given more than $50 million to the Catholic Education Foundation of Los Angeles for financial support for students at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Catholic elementary and high schools.
“The kindness and love reflected in this gift are beyond words,” Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said June 16. “This gift will change the lives of countless young men and women, for generations to come, opening up opportunities for the future they could never have dreamed of. On behalf of all these young people, their families, and the whole family of God, we thank God for this benefactor and this beautiful expression of love for the Church.”
The gift will be allocated over a five-year period for students at the 212 Archdiocese of Los Angeles Catholic schools in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties, the Catholic Education Foundation of Los Angeles said in a statement.
Douglas Cooper, executive director of the Catholic Education Foundation, voiced “tremendous gratitude and appreciation” for the “transformative gift.” The tuition awards will help new enrollees but also students who left “but now will be able to return.”
“There is no greater gift than a Catholic education which teaches values of faith, family and service,” Cooper added. “We are beyond grateful to this anonymous donor for their kindness, leadership and generosity, and we look forward to welcoming these students and families into our family of Catholic schools.”
The foundation encouraged local families interested in information about Catholic schools and financial assistance to contact the Catholic schools office or visit its website.
“A gift of this magnitude will change the lives of thousands of students, particularly our most needy,” said Paul Escala, senior director and superintendent of schools for the archdiocese. “We are deeply grateful for the confidence and faith this gift reflects in our teachers, leaders and families.”
“This is a remarkable opportunity to welcome new and legacy families to our Catholic schools,” he said.
About 78% of students in archdiocesan Catholic schools come from an under-represented minority background and half of these schools are in inner city or urban areas.
The education foundation aims to provide tuition aid to “the most financially deserving students” at Catholic elementary and high schools in the Los Angeles archdiocese. In 2021 the foundation gave over $12 million in tuition assistance to more than 10,000 students. Over the last 34 years, it has given $225 million in aid to 202,000 students.
Catholic schools “rely on contributions and other support to maintain education that is affordable and accessible for all families,” the education foundation said, claiming that Catholic schools in California save the state more than $2 billion in educational funding each year.
All of the archdiocese’s schools will resume in-person learning when the school year begins in August.
The education foundation said students never stopped learning during the pandemic due to an immediate transition to distance learning. Some 96% of elementary and high schools reported regular attendance.
There are some 51,000 students at parish and diocesan elementary schools in the archdiocese, and about 14,000 high school students at parish and diocesan schools, according to the archdiocese’s website.
The U.S. is home to about 6,000 Catholic schools, down from some 11,000 in the 1970s. About 1,000 have closed since 2007. At least 100 Catholic elementary and high schools across the United States did not reopen for the fall semester last year, with many suffering from low enrollment and decreased donations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In April, the Los Angeles archdiocese announced the closure of six elementary schools and their consolidation with other schools. The schools had faced financial challenges long before the pandemic, officials said.
The archdiocese’s Catholic schools website said their schools “staved off catastrophic enrollment decline” during the pandemic. Though a 20% decline was forecast, elementary schools showed a 13% enrollment decline, and high schools a 6% decline.
The schools served over 2 million meals to high-need students and families at 40 schools through the National School Lunch Program. It helped supply personal protective equipment to all its schools and re-opened 100 schools with modified in-person instruction.
Sister Dale McDonald, public policy director of the National Catholic Educational Association, told CNA in June 2020 that about 80% of most Catholic schools’ operating budgets is based on tuition. Many Catholic schools hold major fundraisers in the spring, and many of these have had to be canceled, postponed, or significantly altered due to the pandemic.