A scholarship program has been created to help 45 students with financial difficulties attend Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for four years.

The Faith in the Future Foundation, which manages the 17 Catholic high schools for the archdiocese, announced that the Howley Foundation had provided $576,000 to establish the scholarship fund.

The Howley Foundation, based in Spring House, provides tuition assistance and academic scholarships and supports educational organizations, primarily in Northeast Ohio and Philadelphia.

The Howley Foundation is giving the money to the nonprofit Faith in the Future Foundation. The scholarship program will be administered by the archdiocese's Office of Catholic Education.

Partial scholarships of $3,200 per year will be awarded to 45 students who will be ninth graders in the fall. Howley Scholars will be required to maintain a grade point average of at least 3.0 to continue to receive the aid for all four years.

The funds are targeted to students at seven of the archdiocese's 17 high schools: Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast, Upper Darby; John W. Hallahan Catholic High School for Girls and Roman Catholic Preparator School in central Philadelphia; SS. John Neumann and Maria Goretti, South Philadelphia; West Catholic Preparatory; Bishop McDevitt, Wyncote; and Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls, Hunting Park.

The Faith in the Future Foundation said the Howley family selected those schools to help highly qualified students from urban areas whose families cannot afford to send them to Catholic high schools. The foundation said the Howley scholarship will be matched with other aid, if needed, to help qualified students and their families.

"Nick and Lorie Howley are nationally recognized giants in support of Catholic education," said Samuel Casey Carter, CEO of the Faith in the Future Foundation. "For the last several years in Philadelphia we have been so lucky to have their daughter, Meg Miktus, sponsor scholarships in our schools, but now to expand and increase their commitment to next year's incoming class on this scale demonstrates both the extraordinary generosity of the Howley family and how the rebirth of Catholic schools in this region deserves the national attention it is getting."

Scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit, financial need and character. Students who receive them are identified as being likely to persist and graduate from college. Interested eighth graders should contact the selected schools and ask to be considered for the Howley scholarship program.

Tuition at Catholic high schools varies, but the average is about $7,800. When aid is factored in, most families paid $5,525 per student last year.