GREENSBURG — Catholic schools in the Diocese of Greensburg have received approximately $6 million for tuition aid through the Scholarship Partners Foundation (SPF) since its inception in 2001.
The SPF was established by the diocese in order to take advantage of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and the Pre-Kindergarten Tax Credit (PKTC) programs in Pennsylvania.
EITC allows businesses and companies that owe certain state taxes to receive tax credits for making contributions to a qualifying scholarship foundation, such as the SPF. The company making the contribution can designate its donation to a specific school or group of schools. The tax credit can be as much as 90 percent if the company commits to making the same donation for two consecutive years with a maximum of $400,000 in credits in a single tax year. The monies are used for tuition assistance to qualifying families.
During the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, local businesses donated $610,207 to diocesan schools through the EITC and PKTC programs, an increase of more than 20 percent over the previous year, according to Meghan Kerr, coordinator of the SPF for the diocese.
Kerr said monies from the program make tuition more affordable for families who choose a Catholic education in the diocese.
"It supplements the financial aid we already have available through the diocese, grants and foundations," Kerr said of the EITC contributions. "It helps to make Catholic education more of an option for those who need further assistance in order to attend."
Kerr said many participating businesses are repeat donors, although their contributions may vary from year to year.
While working to maintain giving to the SPF through the EITC program, the foundation this year is also focusing on the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program, Kerr said.
The OSTC was passed last year to help the families of students in the lowest performing schools in the state choose a better school to meet their needs. However, contributions had been adversely impacted, in part, because of a lengthy, complicated application form for companies that wanted to contribute to a scholarship foundation and claim the tax credits, Kerr said.
"The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference worked with the Department of Community and Economic Development to revise and simplify the form and process," Kerr said.
"We hope this will encourage more companies to apply for the OSTC program so the Scholarship Partners Foundation can help families in struggling schools in our diocese choose to move their children to one of our Catholic schools," she said.
EITC donors often earmark their contributions for a specific school, Kerr said, and OSTC donors can do that, too.
According to the SPF’s financial report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, St. Bernard Regional School in Indiana received $157,492 in donor-designated EITC contributions, compared to $124,498 the previous year.
"At St. Bernard, 66 students are aided by the scholarship funds," Denise Swope, principal, said.
"Every year these companies demonstrate their continued commitment and support providing the financial assistance needed by the school and families who reside in Indiana and surrounding counties," Swope said. "We are pleased to have so many generous businesses in our community that think Catholic education is important in our world today."
The Divine Redeemer School in Ford City received $54,450 in restricted awards the year ending June 30, 2012, a significant increase from the $4,450 it received the year before.
Nicalena Carlesi, principal of The Divine Redeemer School, said one company made a significant donation, primarily through the efforts of state Sen. Don White, who has worked to encourage companies in Armstrong and Indiana counties to participate in the program and assist The Divine Redeemer and St. Bernard Regional and other schools in those counties.
"Enrollment and retention are greatly a product of tuition assistance," Carlesi said. "My families rely on this type of assistance to make a Catholic education a reality."
For more information about the Scholarships Partners Foundation and the EITC and OSTC programs, contact Kerr at email@example.com.