A new educational program at Belmont Abbey College launched this week in a concerted effort to help Catholic families and homeschoolers afford a faithful Catholic college education, Dr. Bill Thierfelder, president of the College, told The Cardinal Newman Society.
“As a home schooling father of ten children, I was very aware that many homeschooling families wanted the private Catholic college education that Belmont Abbey College provided but often could not afford it,” Thierfelder said. “While praying, it came to me to create a primarily residential program that would ensure students were well-educated, well-formed and well-prepared at a cost comparable to a public college or university.”
The Bishop Leo Haid Fellowship program, which begins this summer, will save students more than 60 percent on tuition when compared to the average national cost for private colleges in the United States, making the total cost for the first four semesters $20,431. Through the fellowship, students will be also able to graduate in three years by taking advantage of a curriculum that combines summer programs with in-person and online classes.
The fellowship is named after Bishop Leo Haid who founded St. Mary’s College — which would later become Belmont Abbey College in 1913 — and became the first abbot of the Belmont Abbey Monastery, which still houses the Benedictine community that helps run the College to this day.
While offering a faithful Catholic education at an affordable price formed the basis for the Bishop Leo Haid Fellowship, Thierfelder said, part of the motivation behind the program came from a desire to encourage more students to choose a Catholic college rather than having to choose a public two- or four-year college due to financial limitations. As the Fellowship webpage states: “For many students the cost of a private education can have you considering public or community college options — now you don’t have to choose.”
Additionally, it is important for Catholic colleges to offer programs like the Haid Fellowship because, unlike at a public college, students at a Catholic college are given the opportunity for more direct spiritual and moral formation, Thierfelder explained.
“A Catholic education, like our new Bishop Leo Haid Fellowship offered at Belmont Abbey College, focuses on seeking and living in response to the truth,” he continued. “Belmont Abbey College lives out those words by offering each student the opportunity to develop as a whole person, in body, mind and spirit. This is what separates us from public colleges and universities.”
Students participating in the Haid Fellowship program will spend the summer before and after their freshman year on campus, enrolling in classes early and taking advantage of opportunities for community service, spiritual enrichment and leadership development. Students will then complete their fall and spring semesters online, saving money on their first year in college.
“With the online classes, students will have the flexibility to work and save while still enrolled as a full-time student,” said dean of admissions Nicole Focareto. “We also know many of our aspirant students think they’ll have to go to a local public college to help reduce their investment. With the Haid Fellowship, students no longer need to do that, or worry about transferring credits. They can begin and end their college career at the Abbey.”
After completing the second summer session, Haid Fellowship students begin their sophomore year by declaring a major and moving to campus full-time. The program will also offer payment plans, and students can utilize state and federal grants in addition to qualifying for scholarships based on further need and academic performance.
“We feel this program will address the needs of Catholic families, especially those with limited budgets and homeschoolers. Of course it maintains the kind of education we’ve always given but with a mix of residential and online classes,” Belmont Abbey communications and marketing director Rolando Rivas told the Newman Society.
Belmont Abbey hopes to enroll at least 50 students in the new program this summer, and grow to 150 students by 2017, according to Inside Higher Ed.
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