Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Diocese of St. Petersburg to offer $1M tuition assistance at Catholic schools

ST. PETERSBURG — With continued high unemployment in an uncertain economy, the Diocese of St. Petersburg says it will offer over $1 million in tuition assistance to help families send their children to Catholic schools in the new academic year.

The sum is $300,000 more than was available this year.

An estimated 30 percent of students in the five-county diocese currently qualify for tuition assistance, according to diocese officials.

The number of students who need financial assistance is increasing, said Catholic schools superintendent Alberto Vázquez-Matos. "I can say that by the applications that are coming in.

"The bishop and I share a vision and that's to provide quality Catholic education in every part of the diocese and because the economic climate has changed, many families have been affected.''

In many cases, they're coping with higher tuition. Frank Murphy, spokesman for the diocese, which encompasses Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, said tuition has had to be raised an average of 3 percent this year for salaries and other expenses.

The tuition assistance program covers about 10 percent of tuition, he said.

He said enrollment around the diocese has stabilized.

"Last year, families didn't even know if they had a job and were really worried about enrolling their children. It's not gotten better yet, but they understand their position. They feel a little more secure in their jobs and in their finances,'' Murphy said.

While the diocese was forced to close one school in 2003, merge two and close one in 2007, there is currently no talk of closing or consolidating schools, Murphy said.

"At this stage, we don't have anything planned. I think we're always looking and it is one of the things that we continue to look at, but as of now, I don't think there is anything that we plan to close,'' he said.

Even St. Peter Claver, a historically black parochial school in Tampa that has faced the prospect of closing over the years, no longer is reporting shrinking enrollment, Murphy said. "The enrollment seems to have stabilized and is somewhat improved,'' he said.

Vázquez-Matos, who was hired in July, said he is working with schools to help them develop a strategic plan to recruit and retain students.

Asked about the Cathedral School of St. Jude in St. Petersburg, which was recently roiled in controversy over the way a priest handled confessions, the superintendent said enrollment there is stable.

At Sacred Heart Interparochial School, created from a merger four years ago of the former Transfiguration Catholic School in St. Petersburg and Sacred Heart in Pinellas Park, the student body has declined since the consolidation, principal Andy Shannon said.

Like most schools in the diocese, Sacred Heart, with its 141 students, is below capacity.

"We would love to have 200,'' Shannon said.

"We have a wonderful school, very safe and nurturing, but the challenge has been the enrollment. Financial resources are always at a premium.''

He said the tuition assistance program is important to Sacred Heart families.

"With the million dollars, depending on how many students in the five-county area apply, I would hope that what they award would be more than in years past,'' he said.

Students at some schools need more financial help than others, Murphy acknowledged.

"We have some schools that the families are struggling more than in other areas. The schools that are smaller are struggling the most. Nativity (Brandon) and St. Stephen's (Riverview) are larger schools. They are a little more stable, but even for them, they have to be careful, too,'' he said.

Money for the tuition assistance program comes from the diocese's annual pastoral appeal, donations to the Catholic Foundation, a private group founded in 1997, and individual gifts.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at or (727) 892-2283.

By the numbers

12,965 Students in Catholic schools

16 Early childhood centers

26 Elementary schools

4 High schools

2 Special educational needs schools

Diocese of St. Petersburg to offer $1M tuition assistance at Catholic schools 03/15/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 9:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees


    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact


    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show


    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.