Catholic schools slowly recovering, but still having a hard time report says

Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago have been battling a drop in student enrollment for years and are looking for new ways to improve the situation for students and families.

An annual report released Jan. 14 by the archdiocese showed 5,488 fewer students were enrolled in their elementary and high schools this academic year, a decrease of 4.7 percent from 2002-03.

Student enrolment in elementary schools was worse than high schools, dropping 5.1 percent. High school enrollment only dropped 3.5 percent.

The decrease in student enrollment varied according to the area. Overall, Chicago schools had an average 5.2 percent drop. Some elementary schools outside of Chicago had drops of as much as 14 percent.

The drop has led to the closure of one high school and in the last two years alone, and Catholic school officials have said more schools will likely close this year, reported the Daily Herald.

The archdiocese says the tough economy – and not scandals of recent years – has made it difficult for parents to pay tuition. In exit interviews, families gave financial difficulties or a move from the area as the reason for removing their child from Catholic school.

The average annual tuition is $5,774 for high schools and $2,912 for elementary schools.

An improvement in the economy could help, but the archdiocese is also considering offering greater assistance to students and families through more scholarships and government grants. The archdiocese has also considered increasing financial aid to students and working to increase contributions from parishioners.

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