Loyola University in Chicago has become the 13th university in the country to launch a program to attract recent college graduates to teach in hard-to-staff Roman Catholic schools for two years in exchange for a free master’s degree in education.
After announcing the program the first week of January, Loyola officials say the Catholic university has been flooded with hundreds of calls and e-mail messages from prospective applicants who, if accepted, will work in local archdiocesan elementary schools while they earn their degrees.
“We’ve been overwhelmed with the response so far,” said Jennifer Kowieski, the director of the new program, called the Loyola University Chicago Opportunities in Catholic Education, or LU CHOICE, for short.
The Loyola program and those elsewhere are modeled after one started in 1994 by the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. Ms. Kowieski herself is a graduate of that program, called the Alliance for Catholic Education, or ACE.
All of the universities using the ACE model are Catholic, with the exception of Valparaiso University, a Lutheran institution in Indiana that places participants in both Lutheran and Catholic schools.
Notre Dame provides a free master’s in education to people who work in struggling Catholic schools in the South, Southwest, and California. Notre Dame has designed the program to attract primarily young recent college graduates although it has also created a small branch of the program that attracts older, nontraditional students.
Most Notre Dame participants live together in small groups, practicing their Catholic faith and sharing in group activities. During a two- year stint, they earn $12,000 a year as teachers, while taking coursework at Notre Dame during two summers to complete their master’s degrees.
“What we’ve capitalized on is not only the strong service motivation, but people who come to the idea of teaching later than age 18,” said John Staud, the administrative director of ACE.
The program has grown from 40 participants in 1994 to 163 today. About 75 percent of the program’s 400 alumni have stayed in education, said Mr. Staud, though fewer than half of those have remained with Catholic schools. ACE places teachers in both elementary and secondary schools.
Mr. Staud points out that teacher shortages tend to be more acute in Catholic schools because they offer lower salaries than do public schools.
The Loyola University program differs from most others, though, in that it will place teachers only in schools run by the Archdiocese of Chicago. No other program limits participation to a local diocese. Loyola has restricted the placements because of the wishes of the MacNeal Health Foundation, of Berwyn, Ill., which provided a $200,000 grant to help support the program.
Loyola now expects to be accepted into the federal AmeriCorps program and receive funds that will help pay for the education of participants.
In addition, the archdiocesan schools will pay Loyola $23,000 for each teacher, the same amount that it would cost them to hire a first-year teacher. About $14,000 of that amount will be used for a stipend to pay each novice teacher. The rest will help cover participants’ education costs.
The value of the master’s degree to program participants is estimated at $18,000.
Sister Margaret R. Farley, the director of school personnel for the Chicago Archdiocese, said she was pleased that Chicago would have a program like the one run by Notre Dame. As of last week, Sister Farley said, her school system was short 10 teachers at the elementary school level, where the Loyola teachers will be placed.
With 117,200 students and 290 schools, the archdiocese runs the largest nonpublic school system in the country.
Participants in the Loyola program will begin their graduate coursework in June and start teaching next fall. They’ll continue to take courses during the school year, as well as during summers.
Loyola plans to accept between 15 and 20 participants to start the program. The Chicago program is not restricted to Roman Catholics.
The following universities offer similar programs: Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn.; Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.; Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles; Providence College in Providence, R.I.; Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J.; University of Dayton, in Dayton, Ohio; and University of Portland in Portland, Ore.
Three universities in the Baltimore area support a single program through a consortium. They are the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, Loyola College of Maryland, and Mount St. Mary’s College and Seminary.