Chicago Catholic School Locks Out 300 Kids

The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., has provided $4 million to its 98 Catholic schools, doubling last year's financial aid.

Parochial schools from Wisconsin to Hawaii are holding back on tuition increases and in Florida, St. John Vianney Catholic School has cut its fees by $900.

The St. Petersburg, Fla., elementary school lowered its tuition from $5,200 to $4,300 to attract more students in a bad economy. The school's capacity is 280 students, but only 150 are enrolled. But the new fee program has already begun to kick in -- 162 students are set to attend in the fall and that number is growing.

'Economy Is Killing Everybody'

"The reason we did it is the economy," St. John principal Kristy Swol told "It's killing everybody."

"It's typically, 'my husband or my wife got laid off' or 'my business isn't doing well,' or things like that," she said.

A neighborhood public school closed down for lack of funding and St. John Vianney hopes to pick up more students. As an additional incentive, the school now charges one fee for parish and nonparish members.

"We thought about it, and if you are accepting of all faiths and not discriminating, everybody gets the same rate," Swol said. "What we are noticing is we are having fallen-away Catholics come back. We are seeing people from other faiths come as well."

But even parents under financial strain will make sacrifices to keep a child in school.

"Parents tell us they will give up everything in the world for a Catholic education, even those who cannot afford it anymore," she said.

One New Jersey family -- though practicing Hari Krishnas -- is giving up new clothing, dining out and other pleasures so its 7-year-old son can attend Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Whippany, N.J.

Pam, who did not want her last name used, stays at home to take care of her son and a 13-year-old daughter who attends public school. Her husband lost his job in information technology in December.

"The school people have been so helpful," the 40-year-old told "They have been considerate and flexible."

Non-Catholics Like 'Brand'

"Our children are our future," she said. "We were brought up in that culture, what we are working for we do for our kids. We want them to have the highest, good quality education."

The family pays $4,445 a year as nonparishioners. At least a dozen others at the school are also struggling, she said.

"People are charging [tuition] on plastic or paying it from their savings," Pam's husband, who did not want to use his name, told

They had thought about moving their son to public school, but decided against it.

"He's learning a lot," his father said. "The teachers are good and they really broaden the students' minds."

Barbara Pacula of Wappinger Falls, N.Y., struggles to pay her daughters' tuitions at two Catholic schools, but says it's worth it.

The 50-year-old has been unable to work as a caterer because of two bouts with breast cancer and recently had surgery for a shoulder injury and cannot drive.

Pacula's husband, Jim, works as a state Department of Transportation engineer.

Parents Sacrifice for Education

"We have made very big sacrifices," she told "We never got to take our youngest daughter to Disney World."

"If they need a pair of shoes, I won't pay $50, but I'll go to Payless and pay $20," Pacula said. "But I make sure that they get what they need and my husband and I go without."

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