‘Fill the Seats’ campaign offers aid to middle-income families

With declining enrollment, financial difficulties and limited resources, the challenges faced by Catholic schools can seem insurmountable, said Elias Moo, superintendent of Catholic Schools.

“But in spite of this reality, I would argue that now more than ever the world needs our schools, especially in a modern cultural context that has deviated sharply away from God and is more and more consumed by secularism and relativism,” he said.

To help our Catholic schools grow, the Schmitz Family Foundation is launching the “Fill the Seats” campaign, which will allow schools to provide school scholarships for middle-income families.

Together with ACE (Alliance for Choice in Education) Scholarships, the Schmitz Family Foundation provides more than $2.5 million each year in scholarships to students attending local Catholic schools. The foundation has committed an additional $500,000 to launch “Fill the Seats,” and ACE will also increase funding.

Pastors and principals will be responsible for recruiting families and students who are a good fit for their school.

Annie McBournie of the Schmitz Family Foundation spoke to school principals and business managers on April 11 about why families deserve the opportunity to choose Catholic schools.

“Our families are so happy at our schools,” said McBournie. “They feel they have input at our schools. They feel safe; they feel like they are heard.”

McBournie explained that Catholic schools spend 222 more hours a year in the classroom than Colorado public schools, which is due to slightly longer school days and less days spent testing students.

“Our ACT scores are three points higher across the board than the Colorado average,” she said. “The Schmitz students are three points higher in English and reading and they’re over two points higher in math and science.”

Those statistics are appealing to families, and Moo believes “Fill the Seats” will give as many as possible the chance take advantage of what a Catholic education can offer.

“We do not want finances to be an obstacle for families who wish to give their children an excellent Catholic education,” said Moo.

Normally, low income families receive the majority of scholarships and tuition assistance, but this one is different, he added.

“We’re glad this campaign will allow our schools to provide new scholarships to middle-income, working families who, perhaps in the past, have fallen outside of scholarship income thresholds.”

Moo is excited the Schmitz Family Foundation is playing a key part in helping our schools flourish.

“We’re very grateful to the Schmitz Family Foundation for their desire and willingness to strengthen our Catholic school communities,” he said.

Featured image by Andrew Wright

Editor’s note: An earlier edition of this story referenced the wrong organization working with the Schmitz Family Foundation. The ACE organization referred to is the Alliance for Choice in Education. The story has been updated to reflect this.

COMING UP: Good news for families seeking a Catholic education

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For families who would like to send their children to Catholic schools, but for whom it doesn’t seem like a financially viable option, Superintendent of Catholic Schools Elias Moo has some good news.

This week Moo announced the Variable Tuition Program for Archdiocese of Denver Catholic Schools, which he says will adjust tuition for families “based on what you can afford.” The program will be implemented this fall in a select number of schools.

Moo explains how variable tuition works in a video posted on DenverCatholicSchools.com, in which he recalls how Jesus told his disciples, “Seek and ye shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you.”

“You have sought a Catholic education for your children and are knocking at the doors of our schools,” he says. “Our schools will work with you … to ensure the doors to a Catholic education are opened for you.”

Worthy of the Name

The tuition program is one aspect of a larger vision for Catholic schools that has its roots in a 2015 symposium on Catholic education led by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, which gathered over 200 teachers, principals, pastors and archdiocesan leaders to discuss ways to overcome the challenges facing Catholic schools.

The fruits of the symposium were articulated in two vision documents titled “Worthy of the Name” (2016) and “Worthy of the Investment” (2017).

“Worthy of the Name” describes four focus areas: “On mission,” “Excellent in every way,” “Accessible to all,” and “Sustainable for the future.”

Building on the previous document, “Worthy of the Investment” reiterated that it’s “not enough for the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Denver to merely remain open. Our schools must continue to be vibrant communities of academic, social, and spiritual excellence.”

Additionally, the document notes that Catholic schools “must be sustainable for the future, ensuring the presence of a Catholic education to the families of northern Colorado for generations to come.”

Implementation of the Variable Tuition Program will begin this fall in about one-third of archdiocesan elementary schools. Eventually, Moo intends for all schools to participate in the program.

“We are at an important juncture in the story of Catholic education in our archdiocese,” says Moo. “We want our schools to be around for many more years to come, but to do so we must work together to strengthen our system and better serve all our families.”

“One of the primary ways we will strengthen our school system,” he continues, “is by making a transformative Catholic education more available and more affordable for families.”

Right-sized tuition

The Office of Catholic Schools will partner with Seeds of Hope and the individual schools to calculate what tuition to charge each family based on financial information provided by the families, according to Moo.

“Schools will also take into account your previous tuition levels and other adjustments to determine a right-sized tuition rate for all your children,” he says.

He adds that the practice is one that is common in many schools, but on a case-by-case basis: “While the program will make this practice uniform, it will still permit each school to keep local level control to determine what is best for their families. This will ultimately benefit all our schools and families.”

The end goal, he says, is “to open our doors more widely to you and your family by providing a right-sized tuition.”

To learn more about the new tuition program, visit DenverCatholicSchools.com, or talk to your local Catholic School principal.


Oct. 5-6, 2015 School symposium
Nearly 200 teachers, principals, pastors and archdiocesan leaders gathered with Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila for a two-day symposium to discuss challenges currently facing Catholic schools in northern Colorado.

Feb. 6, 2016 “Worthy of the Name”
Any entity or mission that can accurately describe itself as Catholic must accept their responsibility as stewards of something that Christ himself founded.

Jan. 27, 2017 “Worthy of the Investment”
The future of these institutions of love and learning is threatened. There is a need in the Archdiocese of Denver to change the way we support the treasure of Catholic education.

Feb. 24, 2018 Variable Tuition Program
Archdiocese of Denver Catholic schools announce program to right-size tuition for families. The tuition will be set at what families can afford.

Featured image by Jason Weinrich