WASHINGTON -- Catholic University in Washington has set a $3 million goal for its 25th annual Cardinals Dinner on May 30 in New York.

John Garvey, university president, said the amount is the biggest goal to be set for proceeds from the annual event, which benefits the school's scholarship fund.

Garvey and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York will co-host the black-tie dinner. Nine U.S. cardinals are expected to attend.

The dinner is hosted each year by a different U.S. diocese or archdiocese. "Because we are the national university of the Catholic Church, we want to get everybody better acquainted with the university," Garvey said in an April 25 teleconference with reporters.

Since its founding in 1887, the university has had "a unique and particular relationship" with the U.S. bishops, he added. It's also the only American university with ecclesiastical faculties granting canonical degrees in canon law, philosophy and theology.

With parents and students "struggling to find the financial means" to afford college today, Garvey said, Catholic University covers as much as 40 percent of the cost of tuition, which now is about $39,000 a year. Since its inception, the Cardinals Dinner has raised more than $29.5 million for scholarships.

He hopes parents will consider sending their children to Catholic University, not just for an education, but especially "if you are interested in the kind of person your son or daughter becomes over the course of college."

Catholic University fosters students' faith life on campus with many opportunities to attend Mass and various campus ministry programs, and by making "the faith come alive in the intellectual life as well," said Garvey.

"Most active Catholics in America are those who come through an institution like this," he added.

An example of the "vibrancy of faith life" on campus, he said, is the blessing dorm rooms by Conventual Franciscans at the beginning of each school year. They visit all dorms and ask residents if they want their rooms blessed. Now, students living off campus ask for a blessing for their apartment, he added.

Asked about holding the Cardinals Dinner at a high-end hotel like the Waldorf Astoria when Pope Francis has set a tone of simplicity for the church, Garvey called it a fair question. He noted most people who buy tickets for the dinner give them away to people who otherwise wouldn't be able to attend such an event.

Individual tickets are $1,250. Tables can be purchased at different levels: sponsor, $12,500; patron $25,000; and benefactor, $50,000.

"We mustn't mistake what the pope is saying for a general kind of condemnation of the idea of celebrating," Garvey added. "There's a lot to celebrate ... at the university. What we're trying to do is raise money for those who can't afford to go there."