CHICAGO, June 18, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Big Shoulders announced it will provide $6.5 million in additional funding to inner-city families. While continuing to provide annual support of $12 to $14 million, Big Shoulders will add 1,100 three-year scholarships, titled Access Scholarships, for new students. "Our commitment to help children reach for a better future is stronger than ever." said Mr. John A. Canning, Jr., Chairman of Madison Dearborn Partners and Co-Chairman of the Big Shoulders Fund. "Personally, I have committed to providing 50 additional Access Scholarships on top of my over 100 students on scholarships. I am inviting others to do the same to make a difference in lives of so many children." Over the last 26 years, Big Shoulders Fund has remained committed to ensuring that the 93 inner-city, Catholic schools it supports remain high quality educational outlets in the neediest communities of Chicago. The students benefitting from these 1,100 new scholarships will be in addition to the nearly 5,000 students already on scholarship this year. Big Shoulders will also continue to provide operational, academic, leadership and other strategic resources and investments to ensure the efficacy and long-term viability of the inner-city schools it supports. Big Shoulders will continue to invest $12 to $14 million in annual support to the schools in the form of scholarships, marketing and enrollment support, professional development, curriculum, technology, and other investments. "There is significant evidence of the positive long-term academic, social and community outcomes of the schools we support in terms of graduation rates, academic growth, and social cohesion." said James J. O'Connor, Founding Co-Chairman of Big Shoulders and retired Chairman and CEO of Commonwealth Edison Company. "Over the last 26 years, we have raised over $240 million in private contributions to ensure students and families continue to have access to high-quality education in their community. We are grateful that Cardinal George and the Archdiocese continue to take steps to keep Catholic schools open in the neediest areas of Chicago." "For three years in a row, enrollment has stabilized and grown in the Big Shoulders Fund schools. Before the Archdiocese of Chicago announced its recent school closures, Big Shoulders Fund Schools experienced just two school closings in the last six years," noted Monsignor Ken Velo, Co-Chairman of the Big Shoulders Fund. This stability stands in contrast to national trends in which there have been 350 school closures in the 10 largest urban Catholic dioceses over the last seven years. "The Access Scholarship program will create opportunities for even more children to have the opportunity of a quality education in neighborhoods across the city, which is at the core of our mission," said Joshua Hale, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Big Shoulders Fund. "We are incredibly mindful of and grateful to the significant number of donors that remain committed to helping children and families by expanding their investment in Big Shoulders and the students we serve." With the Big Shoulders Fund Access Scholarship, families will be able to pay $150 a month as part of Big Shoulders' widest reaching program to provide students with a proven option. Big Shoulders actively seeks partnerships with individuals, corporations, and foundations that would like to provide scholarship assistance to students and families in financial distress. A list of participating schools and more details on the Access Scholarship can be found at www.bigshouldersfund.org. The Big Shoulders Fund Big Shoulders Fund was founded in 1986 by business leaders, inspired by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, to provide assistance for the inner-city Catholic schools in Chicago. To date, the Big Shoulders Fund has raised over $240 million, which has been used to help defray tuition and operating costs at 93 inner-city elementary and secondary schools, and to assist with capital and other program enhancements at these schools. These schools educate nearly 24,000 children of whom 80% are minority, 61% live in poverty, and 32% are not Catholic. Fully 85% of students that graduate with Big Shoulders renewable scholarships enroll in college the following year, of whom 86% enrolled at four-year universities. This is considerably higher than city, state, and national averages. Big Shoulders has earned a four star rating from Charity Navigator for six years in a row measuring efficiency, transparency and accountability. This is particularly significant because just three percent of charities have received at least six consecutive Four Star Ratings. The Fund is an independent 501(c) (3) charitable tax-exempt entity that receives and distributes privately raised contributions. For more information, visit http://www.bigshouldersfund.org or call 312-751-8337.