The True Value of GRACE

By Nick Anderson
GRACE Board of Trustees Chairperson

I am fortunate to have attended Notre Dame of De Pere for grade school where I received an excellent Catholic education. I was a student there years before Notre Dame and the other Green Bay area Diocese schools came together in what we now know as the GRACE System. Fast forward (many, many years) to 2023 and my wife and I are now blessed to have three students enrolled in a GRACE school and be part of a vibrant school/parish community.

I am a firm believer in the value of Catholic education. I am particularly passionate about keeping that education affordable for all families, especially for our middle-income families who reflect the majority of our community.

That’s where GRACE excels. Today, tuition at GRACE elementary schools is about $3,500 per year for active parishioners. While that amount certainly represents a significant sacrifice – and investment – that parents make for their children, GRACE tuition is reasonable as compared to other Catholic schools. For example, parishioner tuition at a Catholic grade school in the Milwaukee area is $4,990, and in the Fox Valley tuition ranges from $4,300 to $5,300 per year.

How does GRACE do this to maintain affordable tuition? In two ways: (1) By limiting costs, and (2) by drawing funding from a broad range of funding sources.

First, let’s consider the cost side. Today the full actual cost of educating a student in a GRACE school is about $8,000 per year. Here are the components of this cost:

  • 64% – Educator pay and benefits
  • 11% – Facilities (buildings and grounds, rent, etc.)
  • 8% – Medical Insurance Benefits
  • 6% – Books and technology
  • 4% – Administrative pay and benefits
  • 3% – Food service
  • 4% – Other operational

This cost would be significantly higher without GRACE. That’s because GRACE provides key economies of scale (think: purchasing textbooks and technology in bulk; limiting administrative costs). Without GRACE each individual school would need to pay for its own benefits, manage facilities, and provide books and technology – all without the robust platform that GRACE provides. Before GRACE was formed, our parishes were investing upwards of 75% of their annual parishioner giving to support their parish schools.

Let’s turn to the funding side. As noted above, tuition of $3,500 falls well short of the $8,000 actual cost to educate a student. Generous support by our community allows GRACE to coordinate funding sources that bridge the gap. Here are GRACE’s key funding sources:

  • 36% – Tuition
  • 28% – Wisconsin Parental Choice
  • 19% – Parish subsidies (remember, there are 23 parishes supporting nine schools).
  • 6% – Food Service (e.g. Annual Appeal, grants)
  • 6% – Site-level Third Source Funding (e.g. $ from so many great Site Advisory Committee (“SAC”) events/auctions)
  • 5% – Centralized GRACE fundraising

Some good news: while GRACE’s overall enrollment has been increasing throughout its existence, GRACE’s reliance on parishes and third source funding (SAC) has, in that same timeframe, decreased. To maintain this positive momentum, centralized GRACE development will be a particular area of focus in the coming year. GRACE recently formed a Development Committee to explore the best ways to fund Catholic education, better collaborate with our outstanding SAC leadership, and support GRACE’s objective to continue to systematically reduce reliance on the amounts that individual parishes invest.

I will admit when I first heard about the GRACE System, I made some faulty assumptions. I jumped to the conclusion that GRACE was an unnecessary bureaucracy – I thought each school could simply run itself. But I was wrong. I have since asked a lot of questions, learned more, witnessed GRACE in action in many facets, and come to realize the wisdom and vision of the parents, priests and Bishop who formed the GRACE system over 12 years ago. The math shows that, absent the power of the GRACE System, any lone individual school would need to charge more tuition and/or engage in far more fundraising in order to manage the administrative and operational costs needed to maintain a high-quality school experience. As a parent I am grateful for the support of our great SAC leaders, volunteers, parishes and donors, all of which help keep Catholic education affordable and attainable to our Green Bay community. And that is the true value of GRACE.

Nick Anderson
GRACE Board of Trustees Chairperson

Notre Dame of De Pere School is part of the Green Bay Area Catholic Education (GRACE) School System. It is a private Catholic school serving Preschool and Elementary through 8th grade (PK3-8) with open enrollment. NDDP provides an individualized education in a faith-based environment. Each child is supported not only academically, but spiritually. The best way to learn more about NDDP is to visit! Click here to schedule a tour.