This is remarkable, and may be unique among private universities in the United States.
The press release:
In response to the unprecedented economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, Franciscan University of Steubenville will cover the remainder of tuition costs, after scholarships and grants have been applied, for the fall 2020 semester for all incoming full-time undergraduate students enrolled in its on-campus programs. The president and Board of Trustees unanimously approved Step in Faith, a COVID-19 response plan, at their April 18 meeting.
President Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, said, “As a University, we feel called by God to ease the burden for students, so they can experience the irreplaceable value of a Franciscan University education. We’ve heard from many students whose concerns over the pandemic are making the decision to leave home for college more difficult. Also, many families and students have seen their ability to pay for college evaporate due to the economic impact of the coronavirus. We hope this unique response will help them to overcome these obstacles and uncertainties and step out in faith with us.”
The idea of using some of the University’s reserves to cover tuition costs came forward after Father Pivonka asked faculty and staff to join him in prayer for “fresh, creative, Holy Spirit-inspired ideas” for addressing the challenges Franciscan University and its students were facing due to the pandemic.
“I must say this is not what I was expecting, but after discernment and discussion, it seemed like an excellent way to provide for new students and their families, many of whom are now hesitant to commit to on-campus higher education,” said Father Pivonka.
“I took it to prayer and ultimately, to our Board of Trustees. The trustees generously responded to this call from God to use our reserves in this unusual way to assist new students and to expand our mission as an academically excellent and passionately Catholic university. This initiative is a step in faith for Franciscan, and I seriously doubt we will ever do anything like this again. It will be difficult for us, but we think it’s the right thing to do.”
Step in Faith applies to new full-time on-campus undergraduates and covers tuition after scholarships and grants, while students retain responsibility for their fees, housing, and meal plans.
“While the tuition coverage for fall 2020 goes to every new freshman and undergraduate transfer student regardless of their ability to pay, families for whom tuition payments are not a hardship—as well as other benefactors—have the opportunity to contribute to the Step in Faith Fund, which will help us help our students,” Father Pivonka said. “We are committing our resources, but we hope others will join us to make this a sustainable effort.”
Franciscan University has also created a special financial aid fund to assist returning students who are experiencing significant financial hardship due to COVID-19.
Father Pivonka added, “Our patron, St. Francis of Assisi, had a deep concern for those in need, and as a Franciscan university, we seek to follow his example in caring for those entrusted to us. While we always strive to keep our tuition affordable, we decided we needed to do more in light of the severe difficulties so many are facing this year.”
New students already enrolled for the fall and others considering Franciscan University were notified today of Step in Faith. Applications are still being accepted for qualified students. Find out more about Franciscan University’s fall 2020 tuition coverage and apply for admission at Step in Faith. To support Franciscan University’s student financial aid fund, visit Step in Faith Fund.