In the old days, big families with closely spaced children enjoyed significant tuition breaks for the youngest children – even sending them to Catholic schools for free.
In recent years, schools chose instead to award financial aid based on need. In theory that prevented a well-off large family from getting a break, while ensuring that a needy family would get help, even if they had only one or two children.
But that approach may be a contributing factor to the composition of schools like St. Michael the Archangel, Overlea – where 171 of the students are from one-child families and 81 children are from two-child families. Just 11 of the school’s families have three children, and only two families have four or more children.
To make Catholic education more affordable for larger families, St. Michael the Archangel School will change its tuition structure next year for parish families. Parishioners with one child will pay $4,411; two children will cost $8,382, and tuition for three or more children is capped at $11,000. After three children, said Principal Patricia Rhode Kelly, “the rest go free.”
“We looked around and we thought we were losing our multi-child families to other schools, and we wanted to entice them to stay here,” she said. “We’ve got some families coming up and we didn’t want to lose them.”
Dr. Ronald J. Valenti, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, said parish schools set their own tuition rates; rates are not prescribed by the archdiocese.
“It’s predicated on what the parish can afford, what funds they can generate,” he said, adding that across the nation schools are becoming more sensitive about ways to make Catholic school tuition affordable.
But he does caution that the costs of educating children remain constant, no matter what the parish charges, and somewhere along the way the parish and school will have to figure out how to cover those costs.
“Probably they’ll have to do more fundraising,” he said.
Carole Gonzalez, a mother of six, has four children currently enrolled in St. Michael School.
“We’re excited,” she said, adding that she and her husband had considered moving the children to St. Ursula’s because it would cost less to educate a large family there.
She praised St. Michael School for working with her in the past to make a Catholic education affordable.
“Catholic education is a struggle, and anything that makes it easier is a help,” Mrs. Gonzalez said. “St. Michael School has been very good to us, so this is just icing on the cake.”