Tuition assistance program benefits college student and her younger siblings

STOs help families like the Joneses to afford Catholic schools

By Jeremy Jones

Special to The Witness

I will never forget the look on my daughter’s face when she chose the college that she wanted to go to. The more I reflect on this proud father moment, the more I real­ize that her choice in a university might not have been possible without another important choice – her parents’ choice of her elementary, middle, and high schools. Each of these important life chapters might not have been available to her without the School Tuition Organization (STO) tax credit program here in Iowa.

My wife and I are blessed to raise five children. As a family, we are heavily involved in the Catholic community to which most of our closest friends and family belong. This community’s shared values offered a firm foundation for my wife and me, and we wanted to instill this in our children, as well. However, the financial demands of sending five children through years of Catholic primary and secondary schools was simply not affordable without help. Enter – the Iowa STO program and the “Our Faith, Our Children, Our Future STO,” which operates in the Archdiocese of Dubuque. The Iowa STO tax credit program allows for donations from Iowans to be turned into tuition grants awarded to nearly 11,000 students each year. Just like my five children, each one of these 11,000 students are unique and may not benefit from a one-size-fits-all learning environment. I worry about the child with behavioral problems at his or her assigned school or the child who is learning faster or slower than their peers. And what about the child who has special needs and requires services their school cannot provide? Many families are left with no choice when it comes to education. Children with unique needs belong to parents of all income levels.

STO tuition grants help make sure the solutions are available to all children. What might be a simple decision for one parent to select a new home in the best school district can be a barrier for another parent without the same resources. And what might be an easy fix for a parent with a struggling child to place them in a nearby private school with smaller class sizes, is not a feasible option for a parent of five like me.

I am thankful for the STO resources that provided an education that meets my children’s needs. If you’re a parent who might need help to provide the future your child deserves, you have an ally in the STO tax credit program in Iowa. If you would like to support families by donating to the STO program, please act now — there are stu­dents waiting for a choice that you can make possible by giving generously. Iowa’s STO program allowed my daughter to attend schools that empowered her inner ambassador within our community. This, in turn, allowed her to stand out among college applicants and be accepted to the college of her choice. It has been one of the most rewarding parts of being her father,  and I believe her story showcases one of the most rewarding programs in Iowa for parents who want a choice in their child’s bright future.

The Jones family belongs to the Cathedral of St. Raphael Parish, which is linked to the Parish of St. Patrick, both located in Dubuque. For more on how to make a tax deductible  donation or how to apply for tuition assistance, visit  You can also find information on the STO in the insert that is being published along with this week’s issue of The Witness.  

School superintendent gives update on STO

DUBUQUE — Kim Hermsen, superin­tedent of schools for the Archdiocese of Dubuque, recently gave an update on the “Our Faith, Our Children, Our Future” School Tuition Organization (STO):

Kim Hermsen

“The deadline for fundraising is Dec. 31, and we need your assistance to make sure the tuition assistance program is fully funded for next school year.  Currently, 40 ­percent of all Catholic school K-12 grade students receive tuition assistance through this program. If we aren’t able to fully fund this program and meet the needs of over 3,600 students, families will be significantly impacted. With your help, we can reach the goal and ensure a Catholic school education is available for all families who desire it, no matter their income. We have just two weeks left, so we are praying for all to consider a gift to the Our Faith STO.  To give a gift, go to Donors will receive a 65 percent Iowa tax credit, and the gift is also eligible for federal deductibility.  If you have already supported the STO financially this year, please tell friends and family about this program. God bless you all, and on behalf of all of the student who need assistance in the archdiocese, thank you for your support.”

Cover photo: MaryRose Jones and her younger brother, Max, are both shown in their caps and gowns. They graduated from high school and kindergarten earlier this year. The Jones family has been able to send their children to Catholic schools in the Dubuque area thanks to help from a School Tuition Organization (STO). MaryRose is now attending college. (Contributed photo)