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A Summary of the Results of the study: Financial Assistance Survey

Prepared by the Life Cycle Institute at the Catholic University of America
Released by the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on Lay Ministry

Dioceses around the country and Catholic colleges and universities recently contributed more than $9 million over a 12-month period to support education for lay ministry.

Funds come in the form of tuition assistance for men and women who are studying to become religious educators, youth ministers, pastoral associates, or for other parish leadership roles, according to the report.

The respondents receiving financial assistance are lay women and men, including vowed religious, who are candidates for graduate degrees in theology, ministry, pastoral and theological studies, religious education, spirituality and canon law.

Of the more than $9 million awarded, $1.6 million was from dioceses and $7.7 million came from the graduate institutions.

Financial assistance was available from 56 percent of the responding dioceses and 79 percent of the responding institutions.

The form of assistance was somewhat different for each group:

88 percent of the graduate institutions awarded tuition waivers or grants

98 percent of the dioceses gave funds for tuition.

Both groups reported that low-interest loans are one form of financial assistance (12 percent of institutions and 11 percent of dioceses).

Twenty-five percent of the graduate schools estimate that their financial aid covered 50 percent or more of a student's total tuition costs. The dioceses were not asked to make that estimate.

Service within the diocese or parish is a key criterion for eligibility for assistance from the diocese:

98 percent reported that individuals already employed are eligible and all of the dioceses reported that some individuals also receive aid for education from the parishes that employ them.

Diocesan policies for financial assistance were established before 1990 by 35 percent of the dioceses, the survey shows. The greatest percentage (56 percent) were established during the 1990s. Graduate institutions were not asked when they began their programs of financial assistance.

Sixty-two percent of the dioceses report that the topic of financial assistance for lay people has been considered by diocesan leadership in the last few years.

In their open-ended comments, most recognize the need for more financial assistance, many mentioned current initiatives, and several referenced the scarcity of financial resources within the diocese. A number of dioceses noted that funding for the education of lay ministers is included within the goals of annual and capital campaigns.

The Knights of Columbus and Our Sunday Visitor are acknowledged by some dioceses as providing funding for their financial assistance programs.

Several dioceses referred to programs where the individual, the parish and the diocese each pay one-third of the tuition.

At least one graduate school has a similar program where it waives one-third of the tuition, and the diocese and the individual each pay a third. One graduate school awards a full-tuition scholarship and other assistance to all full-time, degree-seeking lay students admitted to its master of divinity program.