Christian Schools Decrease in Enrollment

( [email protected] ) May 31, 2004 01:04 PM EDT

Christian schools are decreasing in enrollment rate across the nation because of high tuition rate. Due to slow economy, parents who want to send their children to Christian schools, find it harder to afford private education.

As the schools in the counties of northern California and Illinois in particular are going through such trend, the school officials are looking further into the cause of decline in enrollment.

"We've had a lot of families who had been living on two incomes and are now down to one, or none," said Judy Meyer, principal at Prince of Peace Lutheran School in Fremont, California. "It's a high-priced area to live, and when you're looking at things to trim, private school is one of the first to go."

Christian Community Schools with a student body of about 400, has seen its enrollment diminish by 10 percent in each of past two years, said Bruce Kirkpatrick, spokesman for the school.

"It's pretty significant," he said. "I don't think there's one or two simple answers (as to why), but the economic situation is all over the country."

Whereas Christian schools in California are at the verge of closing their doors, a Christian school in Illinois has already closed its doors recently because of decline in enrollment as 47 percent of parents decided not to re-enroll their children. .

"Due to problems with the economy and costs involved, many cannot afford to send their students to receive a private school education," school officials said in a prepared statement. "This has caused enrollment in private institutions to drop sharply over the last few years."

The school enrolled 127 students in kindergarten through high school this year and employed about 20 people, including eight elementary and six high school teachers. All lost their jobs in the closing.

The main reason to such dramatic decrease in enrollment rate was because of tuition increase by 20 percent for the 2004-2005 year.

According to statistics provided by the Regional Office of Education for Champaign and Ford Counties, enrollment already was down from 141 in 2002-03 and 138 in 2001-02

Rick Kirby, a board member, said school officials had tried to do a number of things to help parents defray some of the tuition increase, including additional fund-raisers, but none brought in enough money.

Catholic schools are not an exception.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, which runs one high school and 50 elementary schools in Alameda and Contra Costa counties in California, has seen an average 5 percent decrease in enrollment over the past two years, officials say.

This spring, the diocese took the dramatic step of closing three schools, all in Oakland -- St. Augustine, St. Paschal Baylon and St. Cyril-Louis Bertrand Academy. Our Lady of the Rosary in Union City was one of eight schools the diocese began monitoring closely last January because of deficit spending, low attendance and other problems, officials said. .

The 173-student Our Lady of the Rosary has been working with consultants for the past two years in hopes of attracting more students and making other improvements in other areas such as marketing. The school is also considering offering scholarships to low-income students, Principal Gloria Galarsa said.

"If tuition is the problem, we want to find ways for them to come," she said.

Some parents prefer Christian schools over public schools because of the smaller class sizes and the opportunity they receive to actively involve in the classroom. Educators are also free to teach religion and have more leeway in discussing ethics and moral issues, administrators of Christian schools say.