Our Sunday Visitor recently spoke with five students at Catholic colleges and universities throughout the country about why they chose to attend a Catholic school, and how they cover the costs of their educational experience. Here’s what they had to say.
College of Notre Dame of Maryland in Baltimore
Kirby Gaddy graduated from the Institute of Notre Dame, a Catholic girls prep school in Baltimore, and wasn’t sure that she wanted to attend another all-girls Catholic school.
“But there was something about the College of Notre Dame of Maryland,” she said about visiting the campus. “I felt at home, and like there was this tranquil spirit that goes around the school. It’s the kind of feeling you get inside when you know you are at the right place. I didn’t have that feeling at the other schools I applied to.”
Gaddy, 20, of Baltimore, is a junior majoring in elementary and early childhood education with a minor in religious studies. She is enrolled in a five-year program that immediately after receiving her bachelor’s degree begins with a fast track for a master’s degree.
The prep school, known for producing women leaders, and the college are both run by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Gaddy received a scholarship from the prep school, and also scholarships from the college for leadership and community service for her involvement in clubs, boards and volunteering. This semester, she joined a new campus ministry where she will be able to put her Catholic faith into action.
Tuition is $28,700, plus housing. The scholarships are cutting those costs for Gaddy, and she also is supporting her education with a work-study program and by teaching a summer dance program at the prep school. She also signed up for a teacher’s grant in exchange for working for four years in schools in low-income neighborhoods after she graduates.
“I have to take out loans to cover the rest,” she said, “but I think it’s worth it and it will pay off. You can’t put a price on your education, and I will be set for life.”
Our Lady of the Lake College in Baton Rouge, La.
Mera Durgapersad is a gift bearer at Mass in the chapel of Our Lady of the Lake College in Baton Rouge, La., and she calls going to Mass “a beautiful thing.”
She also appreciates that the Catholic presence encourages her and her friends to go to church and to pray more. “It’s really nice to have prayer in a college atmosphere,” she told Our Sunday Visitor.
But Durgapersad is not a Catholic nor even a Christian. She is a Hindu whose ancestors are from India.
So, why did she choose a Catholic college?
“I wanted something small, and it turned out to be a Catholic college,” she said. “I also wanted a college that wasn’t about partying. I wanted a college that would help me to stay focused and to grow as a person.”
What she also found, she added, was a peaceful atmosphere and the presence of core values.
OLOL is supported by the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady and has a mission that focuses on a spiritual journey and a commitment to meet the needs of others. That’s also her personal goal that was reflected in an essay that, along with her academic performance and community service, won her a full scholarship as a Franciscan Student Scholar. Otherwise, the tuition is from $330 to $365 per credit hour.
Durgapersad, who is from Gonzales, La., is a student ambassador and is active in community service. She is a senior majoring in human medicine and plans to continue her graduate studies at OLOL to become a physician’s assistant.
“When I started college, I was shy, and being here brought a lot out of me,” she said. “I don’t think I could have done that at any other school. I am honestly glad that I came here, and I would definitely encourage others to come to a Catholic college.”
Seattle University in Seattle, Wash.
Katie Wieliczkiewicz liked the idea of “intentional learning and really small classes” offered at Seattle University, and as a cradle Catholic, she also liked the Jesuit tradition of education.
“I wanted a school with a holistic approach that didn’t just push me through classes,” she said.
Wieliczkiewicz, 21, is a senior majoring in public affairs and strategic communications. The total cost of attendance at SU is currently around $48,000, and she found ways to afford to go.
“I have some scholarships from the university and I am active on campus as president of the resident hall association and student body, which provide stipends and fellowships,” she said. “And then I have a fair amount of federal loans and loans in general. But it’s worth it. I realize that when you go to college, you are not just paying for classes. You are funding your future.”
Wieliczkiewicz’s parents are from Boston and attended Catholic schools. Her father was in the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and when an assignment took him to Wasilla, Alaska, they stayed. She went home this summer to work on a required internship.
“I really like the leadership I am involved in at Seattle University,” she told OSV. “I was able to go to New York City, Arizona, Ecuador and other places. Without a doubt, I have had great opportunities here that I wouldn’t have had in Alaska, and living in a city is so different.”
She is currently applying to graduate schools with a career goal in public service.
Christendom College in Front Royal, Va.
Antonia Cummings is a freshman at Christendom College in her hometown of Front Royal, Virginia, where the tuition, room and board total more than $27,000.
She didn’t receive any scholarships, nor did she get any grants to offset those costs.
“I am paying out of my pocket, and I am getting some help from my aunt,” she said. “Other than that, I’m doing it on my own.”
Cummings, 18, was home-schooled and also took private classes. For the last several years, she has been baby-sitting, house sitting, waitressing and working in retail to earn money for her college education. She chose a liberal arts Catholic college for its solid moral foundation.
“There is enough worldly world out there and I wanted to attend a college where I could prepare for that world,” she said. “Through those solid morals, I would like to find happiness in the modern world. Nowadays, happiness is often described as being drunk or as sexual activities. That can’t possibly be happiness. I am here to find out what true happiness is, and at the moment, I think it’s doing God’s will and accepting it. That’s why I came here.”
Her parents’ income, she said, is too high for her to qualify for financial aid and grants. Besides, she added, “If my younger siblings aren’t as lucky as I have been with jobs, I want my parents to be able to help them later.”
Cummings hasn’t yet declared her major but is considering theology or the classics. She’s currently living on campus, but she isn’t sure what will happen financially next year.
“I have been blessed with my jobs and my aunt’s help and that’s really wonderful for this year,” she said. “I don’t know what I will do next year, but for now, I’m OK.”
St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa
Emma Williams’ mother graduated from St. Ambrose University in 1986, and that’s always been the college that she wanted to attend, too.
“She had very fond memories and great stories from her college experience, and when I was growing up, we would go there and walk around campus,” she said. “At every turn, there was a friendly face.”
Tuition for undergraduates is $24,680 a year, with room and board ranging from $5,690 to $8,175.
“It’s very expensive but I was extremely passionate about going here,” said Williams, 19, who lives in Milan, Ill. “I applied for about 20 scholarships and ended up getting phenomenal [college, local and national] scholarships that are paying about 80 percent of the tuition. This year, I’m a resident adviser, so that’s paying for my housing.”
Williams is a sophomore with a double major in public relations and English, and an interest in theology electives. In her freshman year, a course in forgiveness helped her to deal with her best friend being killed by a drunken driver when the girls were just 7.
“I was constantly struggling to forgive him, and the course shed a whole new light on what forgiveness is,” she said. “I had no idea how important it was for me to forgive this man, who was in jail about five more times for drunken driving. I learned that we can forgive but not condone, and I was able to evaluate my past and what I was feeling. It was a great way to get started at St. Ambrose, and I would not have had a class like that in a secular institution. I have been able to grow here spiritually.”
Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.