Parents of students enrolled in 23 suburban Philadelphia Catholic elementary schools are receiving unexpected tuition assistance as the schools reopen this fall.

The Ambassador’s Fund for Catholic Education awarded a grant of $250,000 to the Foundation for Catholic Education for distribution to qualified families experiencing COVID-caused financial setbacks.

The 155 grants, each ranging from $500 to $2,500 depending on the number of children in a family and other factors, are offered in two groups.

The first is for $150,000 to 12 suburban elementary schools with families suffering financial hardship from coronavirus-caused illness, loss of employment, or loss of business.

The second group is for 11 schools associated with parishes participating in the Catholic Leadership Institute’s Next Generation Parish program in which $100,000 is available for tuition relief.

Most of the financial aid grants average $1,000. Half of each is applied to the student’s fall tuition charges. The remaining assistance will be reevaluated in several months based on any changes to the family’s financial circumstances.

The grants help defer tuition that on average is approximately $4,000 a year per student in parish and regional grade schools in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

The Ambassador’s Fund for Catholic Education is the successor name to the Archdiocesan Educational Fund founded in 1967 by the late Matthew H. McCloskey Jr., building contractor and U.S. Ambassador to Ireland (1960-62).

The board approved the first cycle of 2020-21 grants, totaling more than $433,000, at its annual meeting in February.

The tuition-relief grant is one of 10 awards reaching close to $797,000 that the Ambassador’s Fund board approved for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

The Foundation for Catholic Education is managing the grant assistance process for all of the schools. Foundation development director Judi McLane-Neeld is coordinating these stages with the principals of the 23 schools, which have demonstrated healthy enrollment, strong leadership and long-term financial sustainability.

“This grant is a much-welcomed and pleasant surprise for these families and their schools,” McLane-Neeld said. “This financial assistance is making the difference in whether a family can reenroll a child or not, under circumstances they never anticipated six months ago. In many cases, these families had never requested financial aid before, then the pandemic arrived and affected their livelihoods.”

The Ambassador’s Fund tuition grant was designated for the suburban schools because they are not eligible for federal or other governmental funds available to city schools.