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      New program boosts enrollment at Catholic schools

      The Catholic school system is declining in Mid-Michigan.

      Four schools in the Diocese of Saginaw were forced to close last year because of poor enrollment.

      One school is offering a new incentive to attract new students.

      All Saints Central Catholic School in Bay City is offering a new program that gives students free tuition for their first quarter.

      It TMs a program some say will save the Catholic school system and give low-income children a better education.

      As a single mother, Ginger Byron says financially times are tough, and it TMs limited the type of education she's wanted for her three children.

      "I TMve always wanted a Catholic education for my children, and I always thought it was something completely out of reach," said Ginger Byron, a mother of three.

      But this school year, All Saints Central Catholic in Bay City is offering a new program for moms like Ginger called Experience the Difference. You TMll Love It.

      "It's been that little nudge that parents needed to get them to pursue the school," said the Principal of All Saints Central, John Hoving.

      It costs about $4,300 a year to attend All Saints. The program gives parents of new students a 25 percent discount on tuition and its boosted enrollment dramatically.

      This year, 20 new students enrolled at All Saints Central Catholic School, double the amount from last year, the principal says this is bucking the trend of the declining Catholic school system in Mid-Michigan.

      For the last several years enrollment at All Saints has declined about 5%, the administrator for Bay Area Catholic Schools hopes this program will turn things around.

      "One of the things that we have are empty seats, and when you have an empty seat in the school, if you put somebody in that seat, it really doesn't add much to your cost," said Michael Knoff, Bay Area Catholic Schools Administrator.

      Zack Markle filled an empty seat. He transferred to All Saints from the public school system. He says he's noticed a big difference.

      It's so much harder here, but it makes it so much easier later on in life," said All Saints Student, Zack Markle

      The principal says ACT scores at All Saints are the highest in Bay County.

      "It's created a positive atmosphere within the schools, we have parents talking up the schools," said Hoving.

      Parents such as Byron.

      "Knowing that they're there, getting good values and morals, it's a surreal feeling," said Byron.

      The administrator says he plans on spreading the news of the program TMs success to other non-public schools in Michigan.

      The administrator says 50 percent of tuition at All Saints is paid by the parish, 40 percent by the parents, and 10 percent through fundraising.

      New students can still take advantage of the program at All Saints after this first quarter.

      It is offered at six other Catholic schools in the Bay area.