The Children's Scholarship Fund Philadelphia announced a campaign Friday to raise $20 million over the next five years for 10,000 scholarships to help low-income families send their children to nonpublic schools.

During an event at Citizens Bank Park with the Phillie Phanatic, officials said the nonprofit fund already had more than $8 million in gifts and pledges toward the goal.

"We are thrilled to announce," said Evie McNiff, president of the fund's board, "that due to the extraordinary support of our donors, we are committed to giving 10,000 students scholarships to a school of their choice."

The foundation also announced that 2,000 new four-year scholarships would be available for low-income city children beginning with the 2012-13 academic year.

The scholarships, which will be awarded by lottery from among qualified families, help cover tuition costs for children in kindergarten through eighth grade at nonpublic schools.

Funding for the next round of scholarships was provided by several local philanthropists, foundations, and nonprofit organizations, including Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools.

Established in 1998, Children's Scholarship Fund Philadelphia currently helps cover tuition for 3,000 children at 200 schools. The average annual tuition at the participating schools is $2,800 per child. The typical scholarship is for $1,400 per child.

Applications for the next academic year are available at branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia, YMCAs, Police Athletic League centers, city parks and recreation centers, and online at

Completed applications must be submitted by March 1. Only the first 7,000 applications will be processed and put into the lottery. The lottery selections will be made by mid-March.

Contact staff writer Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or