Catholic schools seeking new strategies to remain open in Rochester

Catholic schools of the Diocese of Rochester have announced a series of new strategies to keep their Catholic schools open and tuition costs low.

Four Catholic diocesan schools are slated to close in Monroe County in upstate New York this year, reported the Democrat and Chronicle.

Since 1995, several of Monroe County's Catholic elementary schools have lost more than 50 percent of their student populations.

Sr. Elizabeth Meegan, schools superintendent of the Diocese of Rochester, said the drop in enrollment is caused by demographics. The birth rate is low and the city is also experiencing a decline in population, which directly impacts school enrollment. Even city schools are set to close in the next few years.

But the biggest factor for enrollment decline is cost, said Sr. Meegan. Many parents cannot afford to pay the $3,000 tuition for Catholic education. 

In order to keep the operating costs, or cost-per-pupil, down, the diocese announced Nov. 12 that it will close and consolidate four schools: Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. John the Evangelist in the city, St. John the Evangelist in Greece and St. Helen in Gates.

Some parents are upset by the closures and don’t think consolidation will really help enrollment woes. But diocesan officials say it’s the only way to save Catholic education in the county.

To try to combat the loss of students due to the cost, the diocese also introduced a new financial plan for next year similar to what some Catholic high schools use.

Parents will now be asked to submit their financial information to an outside company that will review it and determine how much financial aid the family needs.

The idea of a sliding tuition scale, according to income, isn’t popular among some parents. Some are protesting by sending their children to Catholic schools that are run by religious communities and not run the diocese.

Sioux City's Catholic schools are also planning on adopting a sliding tuition scale based on income for the 2005-2006 school year if a fundraising goal of $550,000 cannot be collected by Feb. 1.

Still, Sr. Meegan believes the school consolidation and new financial process would result in lower tuition for a lot of families.

There are 5,200 students in Monroe County’s Catholic diocesan schools.

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