Catholic School Matters

January 7, 2018

The 411 on 529's

The Tax Reform bill has brought 529 plans into the fore. 529 plans were previously only available for college savings but are now available for private K-12. In simple terms, a 529 plan is similar to a Roth IRA—it’s post-tax dollars set aside for education expenses where the earnings cannot be taxed. Here’s a short description offered by CAPE in their January newsletter and the IRS guidance as well as a New York Times article which explores different scenarios.

This new provision can benefit every Catholic school if school leaders undertake the task of educating parents and connecting them to financial advisers. Down the road, it is hoped that donations can be made to individual 529 plans from scholarship funds (they can currently only be made post-tax from individuals).

Since our Catholic schools are so different with so many different levels of poverty/affluence, the most important task is to educate parents about what a 529 plan is and to connect them with a local financial adviser. Perhaps that adviser might be willing to offer you material for your newsletter and offer a workshop. Ideally, you might have financial advisers in your parent population who might be willing to set up plans at a discounted rate. There is no minimum amount to set up a plan and even small monthly contributions can go a long way toward saving. Here's an example of what another private school has produced.

Second, I believe discussions need to be formed in your school advisory councils to discuss how this new plan might affect marketing and planning. For example, take a look at a compounding interest calculator and if you have an Excel aficionado who would be willing to build a spreadsheet with tuition taken out and compounding interests and different contribution amounts, you’ll be on the right track.

Let’s look at a few scenarios:

1. Family Donation. If a family member were to give $10,000 at time of birth to create a 529 account and the parents were to contribute $200 per month, the account (assuming 5% growth rate) would be nearly $93,000. This is a great way to show the value of compound interest and might be a great way to capture interest from grandparents and alumni. While this would be enough to cover the average K-12 education expenses, it’s not a fair demonstration because it doesn’t take into account how much the interest earnings would drop when tuition is deducted.

2. Monthly Contribution. If parents began contributing $500 per month at the beginning of Kindergarten, assuming the same 5% interest would result in over $100,000 in earnings (again, when tuition is deducted, the total would shrink).

3. Stairstep Tuition. What if schools made “entry” tuition lower to entice parents to set up 529 accounts and guarantee money for college? How would we get parents to commit for the many years? Could we trust parents? And how do we design this for parents who are paying less than full tuition?

The 529 opportunity surfaces many questions and problems. Now is the time to engage your parents and advisory bodies to seek innovative solutions in order to serve more families. If anyone creates a great Excel spreadsheet, let me know and I’ll share it out.

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Dr. Tim Uhl

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What I'm Up To

The Church Documents podcast series continues this week with the eleventh podcast in the series covering the Vatican document from 2002 "Consecrated Persons and Their Mission in Schools." Jack Peterson, the founder of Managing for Mission and the former president of Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, is the guest on the podcast.

Over the past few weeks, the following podcasts have dropped:

You can find links to the documents as well as guest blogs, study questions, and more here. If you're interested in serving as a guest blogger, please contact me.

Another exciting thing is my friend Michael Zelenka, ACE faculty member at Notre Dame, and I are working on a principal formation project. We have developed a 1-minute survey. If you are a Catholic school principal, can you take this survey?

Here is the link to the podcast on iTunes. Here are videos showing you how to download and subscribe to a podcast on iTunes and how to download and subscribe a podcast on Android.

Here's what I'm working on this week:

  • Monday: Butte & Missoula meetings; Podcast Episode 91: Consecrated Persons and Their Mission in Schools with Jack Peterson
  • Tuesday: Monthly Virtual Administration Meetings 9 am & 1 pm (link below); Blog: Consecrated Persons
  • Wednesday: Great Falls & Billings meetings; Wed book blog: Management Lessons from the Mayo Clinic (2008) by Leonard Berry & Kent Seltman.
  • Thursday: St. Labre Board meeting (Billings)
  • Friday: Office (Helena)

Miles this week: 651 driving miles

Miles travelled in 2017-18: 14,998 road miles; 18,423 air miles

American Catholic News

Catholic School News

  1. Bishop Kicanas from Tucson is appointed Chair of the NCEA Board
  2. New Latin & Greek curriculum taking root in Pittsburgh
  3. Great interview with future podcast guest Steve Glasser, the president of Dickinson Catholic Schools
  4. New Phoenix Catholic high school hiring staff
  5. Great story about the results of the Diocese of Cleveland's survey

Leadership Links

Teaching & Learning


St. Gertrude the Great School



  • Bishop Kicanas appointed Chair of the Board
  • Matt Russell named Chief Development & Advancement Officer
  • FACTS Day of Giving January 30th
  • VIsions for Excellence Soul of Youth Sports Conference Fe 21-23
  • Convention, April 3-5 Cincinnati

Professional Development

  • Click here to register for webinars
  • Jan 9th: Focused Marketing to Grow Enrollment
  • Jan 10th: Introduction to Gregorian Chant
  • Jan 11th: P3: Powered by STREAM

What I'm Reading

  1. Building a Bridge (2017) by James Martin, SJ.
  2. Creativity, Inc. (2014) by Ed Catmull
  3. America's Original Sin (2017) by Rev. Jim Wallis
  4. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (2017) by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  5. The Principal as Spiritual Leader (1994) Ed. by Maria Ciriello, OP

Click this link for a full list of my professional reading along with links to Wed Book Blogs

For Montana Administrators & Teachers

  • Bishop Warfel's schedule of Masses for Catholic Schools Week
  • Here is the slideshow for the Jan 9th Admin Virtual meetings at 9 am and 1 pm. Administrators are asked to read Chapter6 (Humility) of Redeeming Administration
  • Jeremy Beck, the long-time and oustanding President of Missoula Catholic Schools, has announced his resignation effective at the end of the school year. We are currently formulating the search process.

Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

December 17, 2017 Best of the Fall Issue

December 10, 2017 Serving Hispanic Catholics

December 3, 2017 Building Culture the ND Way

November 12, 2017 "How Are We Building Relationships?"

November 5, 2017 "Journal of Catholic Education"

October 29, 2017 Church Documents

October 22, 2017 Momentum Special Issue

October 15, 2017 "Anthem Protests"

October 8, 2017 Classroom Managment Special Issue

October 1, 2017 "The Un-Themed Issue"

September 24, 2017 "Joy of the Gospel"

September 17, 2017 "ESSA"

September 10, 2017 "On Leadership"

August 27, 2017 "American Catholic News"

August 20, 2017 Back to School Issue