Frequently Asked Questions

About School Tuition Organizations

What is a School Tuition Organization?

 It is a charitable organization that receives voluntary cash contributions from Iowa taxpayers and then allocates those funds in the form of tuition assistance to eligible families who attend accredited nonpublic schools represented by the School Tuition Organization.

What type of taxpayers can contribute to a School Tuition Organization?

Individuals, S-corporations, C-corporations, limited liability corporations, partnerships, estates and trusts.

Does this program interface with the existing tuition and textbook tax credit offered to taxpayers in Iowa? 

No. The tuition and textbook tax credit program is completely separate from the donations to a School Tuition Organization. The tuition and textbook tax credit program provides a tax credit to parents/guardians for the first 25% of tuition and textbooks paid by the parents to an accredited school up to a maximum credit of $250 per child (25% of $2000 in expenses) in grades K-12.

How much of my donation will be given to eligible families?

The law requires that at least ninety percent of all donations be distributed as grants to qualifying families within twelve months of receipt of the gift. The School Tuition Organization may use up to ten percent of the proceeds for out of pocket expenses such as printing costs, mailing fees, and administration of the program.

What is the total dollar amount of tax credits that can be issued statewide by all of the approved School Tuition Organizations?

In 2021: $15 million in statewide Iowa tax credits.
In 2022: $20 million in statewide Iowa tax credits.

What are the School Tuition Organizations in Iowa?

There are 12 organizations in Iowa that offer these tax credits.  The contact information is available here.

About CTO

What is the name of the School Tuition Organization for the Diocese of Des Moines?

The name of the School Tuition Organization serving all of the schools of the Des Moines Diocese is the Catholic Tuition Organization or CTO. The CTO serves 16 schools with approximately 6000 students in grades kindergarten through twelfth grade.

What is the total dollar amount of tax credits that can be issued by the Catholic Tuition Organization?

Tax credits are prorated to the 12 school tuition organizations based on certified enrollment of their participating schools. CTO was allocated by the Iowa Department of Revenue $3,344,635 in tax credits for 2022.

How is CTO incorporated?

This CTO is incorporated under the laws of the state of Iowa and is exempt from federal and state income taxes under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Service code. Our affiliation with the Diocese of Des Moines, through the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, provides the initial non-profit status for the CTO.

Who serves on its board of directors?

The Board of Directors

For Donors

How much is the tax credit?

The Iowa tax credit is equal to 75% of the donation. The contribution is also eligible for a federal tax deduction when the donor itemizes on their federal return. Please consult your tax advisor for your specific tax implications.

How much of the contribution is used for tuition assistance and how much is used for operations of the CTO?

At least ninety percent of the money donated must go awarded to eligible families within the following calendar year. Historically, CTO has awarded 93% of all revenue in tuition assistance.

Who may contribute to the CTO?

Individual taxpayers, C Corporations, S-corp, LLC, Partnerships, Estates and Trusts can contribute to the CTO and are then eligible for the tax credit.

What types of gifts are accepted by CTO?

In addition to check or credit card, the CTO also accepts gifts of securities, grain and required minimum distributions from retirement accounts. For a copy of our Gift Acceptance Policy, please Contact CTO. Please contact CTO for securities transfer instructions or find instructions on the  RESOURCES tab.

How will donors know that the money will be used for its intended purpose of tuition assistance to eligible families?

An annual review of the donations received and awards granted is conducted following the close of the fiscal year on June 30 by certified public accountants. In addition, an internal audit is conducted of all schools on a rotating basis to compare parent tuition accounts to CTO records to confirm receipt of approved tuition assistance.

Will there be an annual report to donors?

Yes. An annual report is published each year listing the awards to families by school as well as an alphabetical listing of donors who wish to be identified.

May gifts to the Catholic Tuition Organization be restricted to an individual Diocesan School?

No. Awards are based on the need of qualified families and not on the amount of contributions designated to a specific school. It is the commitment of the board of directors that all qualified families who needs tuition assistance will receive tuition assistance.

Are contributions put into an endowment?

No. Unlike an endowment fund, donations by law cannot be held to support future needs. Therefore, the CTO must raise funds annually and present scholarships annually to support the ongoing needs of the eligible families.

May gifts to the Catholic Tuition Organization be restricted to an individual student?


Is there a limit on the size of individual gifts accepted by the “Catholic Tuition Organization?

No. The donor may want to limit their contribution so the tax credits received do not exceed their Iowa tax liability. A donor can carry forward their tax credits for up to 5 years. There are no limits for contributions to the CTO except up to the amount of tax credits available each year.

What is the annual fundraising goal?

The amount of tax credits vary each year and is based on the pro-rated percentage of certified enrollment in our schools compared to the certified enrollment in the other school tuition organizations in Iowa. The 2023 fundraising goal is $4.5 million..

When are pledges due?

CTO asks that pledges be paid by December 15. The reserved tax credits will be released after December 15 to donors on the waiting list if the pledge is not paid.

For Applicants

What are the steps for families who wish to apply for tuition assistance through this program?

Families complete either an on-line (preferable) or paper application.  Applications are accepted beginning February 1st.  Tax returns are required for a complete application.

What is FAIR?

FAIR is a company hired by CTO to review all applicant information, analyze their financial need and recommend an award amount based on criteria established by the CTO Board of Directors. FAIR provides an impartial evaluation of all applications and is not swayed by personal relationships with the applicants or their schools.

Is my information kept confidential?

All information is kept confidential.

How is my application approved?

A report will be generated by FAIR and is sent to the CTO Board of Directors, who will recommend the level of tuition assistance to be awarded to eligible families based upon the total funds available from the CTO.

When are families notified if they will receive tuition assistance?

The schools will notify the family of the tuition assistance award. Applications received by first Friday in April will be notified before the end of the school year. Applications completed by June 15 deadline will be notified in early July. Applications received by July 31st will be notified prior to the start of school.

Who can help me complete my application?

Schools will assist families in the completion of the financial aid applications.

In addition to income level and number of dependents, will other factors be considered to determine the level of assistance to be awarded?

The amount of tuition assistance awarded to individual families will take into consideration such factors as; income level and number of dependents, as well as, tuition level of the school, family circumstances, cost of living for the area, and the ability to meet all local admissions requirements. It will not take into consideration factors such as retirement funds, mortgage levels, or consumer debt.

Who is eligible to apply to a parochial school in the Diocese of Des Moines?

All families are eligible to apply. Awards are granted to only those families who reside in Iowa, whose adjusted total income falls below the guidelines. Only children in K-12 grades are eligible. All other families who do not qualify for this program but feel they need additional assistance will need to contact their local school.

What are the current income guidelines?

2022-2023 Income Guidelines

Family Size * Maximum Income **
2 $78,880
3 $99,440
4 $120,000
5 $140,560
6 $161,120
7 $181,680
8*** $202,240

* Family size includes parent(s)/guardian(s) and total number of dependents plus others living in household.

* Families/households are eligible for CTO assistance if their total income is at or below the above listed income level reported on Line 9 of federal income tax form(s).

** Add $20,560 for each additional dependent

Do tuition grants received by a family through this program impact local tuition assistance gifts to that same family?

The CTO will issue awards to families based upon that families’ identified need. Any additional assistance presented to that family would be a local decision.

Is there an appeal process if the total level of tuition assistance is perceived to be insufficient?

No. There will be no additional funds available for a broad-based CTO appeal process. Local schools may develop local protocols, funded locally, to support an appeal process.

What if a student who has received assistance, withdraws before the end of the school year?

The amount of the assistance will be pro-rated based upon the number of days the student attends the school.

What if a student transfers to another Catholic school participating in the CTO?

The assistance will continue at the new school if that Catholic school is in the Diocese of Des Moines. The assistance amount may increase if the tuition at the new school is higher, or decrease if the tuition is lower.

When can I apply for next school year?

Applications can be submitted online at beginning February 1st.  Printed applications are available at all of our schools in January of each year.

What are the deadlines for the application process?

The deadline for Round 1 is April 18, second deadline for Round 2 is June 15, and the third for Round 3 with some dollars reserved for a second application deadline of is July 31st. This second and third application deadline is for families who may have moved into the school district during the summer, are transferring from a public school or missed the first other application deadlines.

The bottom line?  It's for the kids...
and their futures!
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