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Tuition assistance from donors in Diocese of Wilmington enables milestone exceeding $1 million

Bishop Koenig addresses students Oct. 29 at the new SS. Peter and Paul High School in Easton, Md. Dialog photo

The funds that are used to help with tuition assistance in the Diocese of Wilmington schools have reached a new milestone, with available aid now exceeding $1 million. The diocese also has changed the timing of the application process to make it easier for families to make educational plans.

Sheila O’Hagan McGirl, the diocesan development director, said the funds have increased in a few campaigns. The Bishop Malooly Scholarship Fund was helped thanks in part to an anonymous donor who “has done remarkable things for us. With that and the success of the Share in the Spirit campaign, we’re able to give more than a million dollars this year. That’s unprecedented. We’ve never done that in this diocese.”

The Share in the Spirit campaign is funded primarily through collections at parishes throughout the diocese. The development office also reaches out to donors who have been consistent givers to either tuition assistance or to the Faith and Charity Appeal. That brought in about 23 percent more than last year, McGirl said.

Donors who give a certain amount of money can sponsor a student, she continued. The donor receives updates from the diocese about the student’s progress. They also receive a snapshot of the student’s circumstances and why they receive financial assistance.

Sheila McGirl, development director, Diocese of Wilmington.

“It’s just a beautiful thing,” McGirl said.

Despite hitting the milestone, the need for aid still far exceeds what is available. That figure is more than $5 million.

“To be able to give a million, it’s always a good thing, but we always want that to be on people’s radar, so if they want to give more, they can,” McGirl said.

Lou De Angelo, the superintendent of schools, said it was “exciting” that the funds have reached the $1 million mark. He said the development office deserves the credit.

“They’ve made great changes,” he said.

The other aspect of tuition assistance that is new is the timing of the application process. Families must still file the same paperwork, but instead of waiting until January and not getting an answer until May, they will begin the process in September. McGirl said some of these families couldn’t wait until May to find out if they’d qualified for aid, and they would enroll elsewhere for the following academic year.

The application process now will open on Sept. 15, using the previous year’s tax returns, McGirl said. The application deadline will be Jan. 31 of the next year, giving schools a chance to conduct their January open houses. The development office expects that applicants will hear if they receive financial aid by the first week of March.

McGirl said anyone who has questions should contact the development office at (302) 573-3121.