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New Scholarships for Local Catholic School Transfer Students

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Several Catholic schools in our region will now be able to provide more scholarships to students who are in the public school system or out of state.

Roanoke Catholic School, Holy Cross Catholic School in Lynchburg, Sacred Heart in Danville, Saint John Neuman Academy in Blacksburg, Saint Anne in Bristol, and Charlottesville Catholic are all part of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond.

The McMahon Parater Foundation of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond has become one of the first foundations to participate in Virginia's new Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits Program. The foundation has already raised $75,500 to provide tuition assistance to attend Catholic schools in the Diocese to families whose annual household income is less than 300 percent of poverty guidelines, or to eligible students with a disability.

The program was approved last year by the General Assembly after years of advocacy by the Virginia Catholic Conference and the Diocese's Office of Catholic Education.

The scholarships will benefit students who enter or transfer to Catholic schools from public schools or from out of state.

"We have 2,000 empty seats in our Catholic schools," said Annette Z. Parsons, Chief Educational Administrator of the Diocese's Office of Catholic Education and President of the McMahon Parater Foundation. "We could fill those seats and give those children a first-class education."

Roanoke Catholic School has 401 currently enrolled for the 2013-2014 academic year, with the capacity to handle 600 to 650 students. 

The average tuition at Roanoke Catholic is $7,297, putting it out of reach for many families. Right now there are 27 families who want their kids to attend but they just can't make it work. This new program will give some of them a big scholarship.

"The public schools do a very nice job but we are indeed a wonderful school," said Debbie Stump, the Roanoke Catholic Development Coordinator, who has two children that graduated from the school she's worked at for 19 years.

"It really helps prepare them for a higher education," Stump said. "We have 100 percent graduation rate with our students here at Roanoke Catholic school and also 100 percent of college placement for our students, so we've very proud of that."

Roanoke Catholic had 36 graduates last year.

Compare those numbers to public districts, keeping in mind these schools have thousands of students enrolled.

Graduation rates for the 2011-2012 school year:

Salem: 93.7 percent.
Roanoke City: 83.4 percent
Roanoke County: 93.5 percent

And not all students were accepted to college from those schools.

"It puts a smile on my heart is the best way to put it" said a local donor who is giving thousands to the school but didn't want his name revealed. "The beauty of this program is when you look at how much you donate versus the tax credits and deductions it's a win-win situation. Basically what ends up happening is you get enough of a tax deduction or a tax savings so it pays for the donation. So all you're really doing is you are taking money that would go to the federal government or state government or out of this area and you're putting it into a local school, making an impact on local underprivileged children, which I think is absolutely wonderful."

"This tax credit program is a great opportunity for donors to provide new access to families who want a faith-based Catholic education for their children,'' said Margaret Keightley, Executive Director of Advancement for McMahon Parater. Under the Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits Program, individuals and businesses will receive a state tax credit equal to 65 percent of the donation. In addition, donors will also qualify for any applicable federal tax benefits for the donation.

Individuals may donate up to $125,000 in a taxable year; however, there is no maximum for business entities, including a sole proprietorship. To qualify for the program, the donation must be at least $500. The credit may be claimed for the taxable year following the year of the monetary donation. Any unused tax credits can be carried over for the next five succeeding taxable years or until the total amount of credit has been taken, whichever is sooner.

Only foundations approved by the commonwealth for this purpose, such as the Catholic Diocese of Richmond's McMahon Parater Foundation, may receive contributions for this tax credit program.

For more information about making a donation or applying for a scholarship, contact Debbie Stump at (540) 982-3532 or dstump@roanokecatholic.com or Margaret Keightley at (804) 622-5121 or mkeightley@richmonddiocese.org.