National Catholic Schools Week Guide – Pages 9 & 10
WHY CATHOLIC SCHOOLS ARE TRENDING IN 2023
AFTER A DOWNWARD TREND IN ENROLLMENT NUMBERS, CATHOLIC SCHOOLS IN THE U.S. ARE BOUNCING BACK
According to the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA), Catholic school enrollment dropped sharply during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Enrollment fell by 6.4% between 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, the largest decline in 50 years. However, new data from NCEA shows that enrollment has increased by 3.8% in the 2021-2022 academic year. This percentage represents an addition of around sixty thousand students, raising the number of Catholic school students from 1.63 million to 1.69 million. While the numbers still have not reached pre-pandemic levels, the growth is notable due to the decrease in Catholic school locations in the country. Forty-three Catholic schools have either closed or merged with one another in the past year.
The rise in enrollment could be attributed to how Catholic schools handled the pandemic, per an EWTN News/RealClear Opinion Research poll of Catholic voters. Catholic school administrators interviewed by Catholic News Agency said that their schools' quick return to in-person learning is at least one factor in parents' decisions to enroll their children in Catholic schools. Seventy-four percent (74%) of the Catholic voters polled are concerned about kids suffering from "learning deficits" caused by the shift to online learning. Catholic schools reopened for in-person instruction much sooner than public schools following COVID-19 lockdown, with 92% of Catholic schools already opened by September 2020 compared to 43% of public schools and 34% of charter schools.
Besides their early return to in-person classes, Catholic school educators also cite their high quality and Christ-centered education as possible explanations for the uptick in enrollment Since Catholic schools are private schools, they boast academic flexibility as they are not beholden to federally-regulated educational standards like public schools. Catholic school students are also immersed in religious education while not taking away time from core academic subjects such as science, math, English, and history. This academic flexibility also allows for greater parental involvement in their children's education, which is another contributing factor in their switch from public schools.
While some may think that parents only enrolled their kids in Catholic schools because they were the only schools that were open during the pandemic, their approach to quality education leads to high retention rates as well as high graduation rates -99% of high school students attending Catholic schools go on to graduate, and 85% of those graduates attend four-year college' Whatever influences a parent's decision to send their kids to a Catholic schools, they can rest assured that the kids will get quality holistic education.