Putting Private Education Within Reach

Many people consider private education to be a luxury that’s only for the “deserving” wealthy class. The leaders of Rockford Lutheran School (RLS) see it differently.

“We come at it from a completely different perspective,” says RLS Executive Director Don Gillingham. “The Lutheran church has always believed in the importance of education. Our nationwide network of teachers dates back to the beginning of the 20th Century. We believe the responsibility of raising children belongs to parents and our mission is to support parents in that effort.”

That’s why the school is now offering $2 million in tuition assistance and new-student scholarships for students entering grades 1-9 at RLS. It also offers various kinds of educational options to parents who homeschool their children.

While it’s understood that students will receive Christian religious instruction and must attend weekly chapel services at RLS, the school is open to students from all faith backgrounds, says Gillingham.
“We don’t require a faith statement for enrollment and about 25 percent of our students don’t identify with a particular home church,” he says.

The school is open to students of all socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.

There are two forms of scholarships available: Testing achievement awards and awards related to interests including music, visual arts and public service. There is also tuition assistance based on need.

The Rockford Lutheran Achievement Award ($750) may be available to new students entering grades 1-9 who sit for a test and achieve a composite score in the 50th percentile or higher. Students who score in the 90th percentile may receive the $1,200 Rockford Lutheran Scholar Award. Students who earn the Rockford Lutheran Excellence Award ($1,750) have achieved the highest composite, reading, or math score for that test date. A student is eligible for one achievement award and separate awards for these categories will be presented to new students entering the Academy (1st-5th grades), Jr. High (6th-8th grades) and Sr High (9th grade).

The special interest awards include the $1,000 Robert E. Kolb Music Scholarship, open to students entering grades 4-9 who demonstrate a strong interest in the musical arts. Along with taking a scholarship test and submitting the application, qualifying students must have completed at least one year of music lessons and plan to participate in Rockford Lutheran’s music programs and classes.

The $1,000 Pastor Marvin Fritz Service Award scholarship is available to 15 new Rockford Lutheran School students entering grades 6-9 who have a strong background in service to their church, school or community. They must sit for a scholarship test and submit an application specific to that award.

The $1,000 Visual Arts Award is available to 10 new students entering grades 6-9 who demonstrate a strong interest in the visual arts and take a scholarship test and submit an application specific to that award.

There is one remaining scholarship test date this spring; it’s at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 24. Call (815) 877-9551 to sign up.

“If your resources are insufficient to meet the total costs of a Rockford Lutheran education, you can apply for assistance through the RLS office,” says Gillingham.

RLS also works with the Invest in Kids Scholarship Tax Credit program. Learn more at InvestinKids.Illinois.gov.

Another way RLS helps families to trim education costs is by enabling high school students to earn college credits from Concordia University in Nebraska that are transferrable to other colleges and universities.

“A few years ago, we had a student who earned enough college credits to save her parents a full year of tuition at Valparaiso University,” says Gillingham. “That was worth $50,000.”

RLS Jr. and Sr. high school students attend class at 3411 N. Alpine Road. Pre-school through 5th grade students attend class at Rockford Lutheran Academy, 1711 Delcy Dr., behind Edgebrook.

In 2018, 100 percent of RLS seniors graduated and 96 percent enrolled in higher education.
“We emphasize to our students that ‘this is your education’ and talk about the importance of engagement,” says Gillingham. “We help them to make the connection between their engagement with education now and their future lives. We also emphasize to parents that they should be investors in, not just consumers of, education. A solid education is something no one can take away from you.”

Learn more about the school and its newly announced scholarship and tuition assistance initiative by calling the RLS office at (815) 877-9551. ❚