School Choice & Charters

Catholic Enrollment Drops in Chicago

By Mary Ann Zehr — December 06, 2005 1 min read

Student-enrollment figures for this school year show that most of the students affected by closings of Roman Catholic schools by the Archdiocese of Chicago at the end of the 2004-05 school year didn’t transfer to other Catholic schools, as archdiocesan officials had hoped they would.

Catholic schools in the archdiocese experienced a drop in enrollment of 4,800 students between last school year and this one. Last spring, the archdiocese announced that 4,200 students would be affected by the closing of 23 schools at the end of the school year. (“Catholic Schools’ Mission to Serve Needy Children Jeopardized by Closings,” March 9, 2005.)

Ultimately, several of the 23 schools on the closure list raised enough money to remain financially viable for at least one more school year, so the archdiocese closed only 18 of its 276 total schools.

But enrollment has dropped by more than the number of students who would have attended those 18 schools.

Nicholas Wolsonovich, the superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Chicago, said last week that parents’ inability to pay tuition, as well as school closings, affected enrollment.

“Families are finding it more and more difficult to afford a Catholic school,” he said.

Tuition at elementary schools in the archdiocese averages $3,000, and at high schools it averages $6,700.

Schools in the archdiocese enrolled 366,000 children in 1964, or about 52 percent of school-age baptized Catholics in the archdiocese. They now enroll 101,890 students, or 22 percent of school-age baptized Catholics.

Mr. Wolsonovich announced last month a plan that he hopes will strengthen the academics and Catholic identity of Chicago’s Catholic schools while also raising more money to keep them operating.

Called “Genesis: A New Beginning for Catholic Schools,” the plan sets up an archdiocesan endowment for schools and calls for parishes without schools to help support schools run by other parishes. It lays out plans for the development of a new religion curriculum and implementation of new curricula in language arts, fine arts, and social studies.

Mr. Wolsonovich noted that while parishes once provided schooling to Catholic children at almost no cost to parents, that is no longer the case.

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