Tuition cut aimed at reversing enrollment decline - Catholic Courier

Tuition cut aimed at reversing enrollment decline

The tuition cut Bishop Matthew H. Clark announced Jan. 18 marks a departure from a pattern of sharp annual increases in recent years, as the Diocese of Rochester attempted to match school revenues against escalating costs.

The 2008-09 tuition for a parish-registered family with one child in a diocesan Monroe County school will be $2,950, down from $4,050 in 2007-08. According to information provided by the diocesan Office of Financial Services, this 27-percent reduction restores tuition to the level of the 2004-05 school year.

Significant decreases also will be extended in 2008-09 to multistudent families. Tuition for a parish-registered family’s second child in the school system is set at $1,625, also down 27 percent from the 2007-08 rate of $2,230. An even larger reduction is being offered to such families’ third children, for whom tuition will be $900 in 2008-09 vs. $2,290 in 2007-08 — a drop of 61 percent. Tuition for each additional child in a parish-registered family will be $900, with total K-8 tuition for such families capped at $7,300.

Tuition in 2008-09 for non-parishioner families will be approximately one-third higher than the parish-registered rates: $3,925 for one child; $2,160 for a second child; and $1,200 for each additional child.

Additionally, the diocese is offering a one-time, $500-per-family re-enrollment incentive for families whose children currently attend one of the 13 schools slated for closing. Displaced families — whether or not they are registered with parishes — can claim this credit if they re-enroll their children in any of the 11 remaining diocesan-run schools in Monroe County.

Tuition in the Monroe County Catholic schools had doubled over the past decade for parishioner families with one child in the system, and more than doubled for two- and three-child families. The most dramatic increases occurred recently, with hikes of $1,100 in the past three years for a family with one child in the system; $2,000 for a family with two children; and $2,950 for a family with three children.

Diocesan spokesman Doug Mandelaro said the last three years of tuition increases were implemented to provide a just wage for teachers, protect the school system’s financial security amid rising costs, and provide financial-aid funding that would make Catholic education a possibility for low-income families. He noted that tuition is the primary source of revenue for the schools, and that the gap between costs and revenues continued to grow as diocesan schools followed a national pattern of declining enrollment.

Due to wide variation in enrollment and class sizes, building-maintenance expenses and other factors, for example, the cost to educate one Monroe County Catholic-school pupil this year ranges from less than $4,000 at some of the largest schools to as much as $12,000 in struggling schools. The average cost to educate one child in a Monroe County Catholic school this year exceeds $6,000, leaving a gap of approximately $2,000, according to information provided by the diocese.

“Over the years we have tried a number of things to develop enrollment while making sure we were financially secure and remaining mindful of our commitment to the poor,” Mandelaro said. “In 2004 we established a higher tuition for those who could afford it, while providing greater assistance to the poor.”

Nevertheless, he acknowledged, “enrollment
continued to decline to the point that we now face a deficit of more than $1 million.”

Tuition hikes have been mirrored by drops in enrollment , with the number of pre-kindergarten through grade 8 students in Monroe County falling from 8,870 in 1997-98 to 4,883 in 2007-08.

“Now, with 27-percent lower tuition and concentration of resources on a core of 11 schools, our honest hope is that this will solve the (enrollment) problem and even increase enrollment,” Mandelaro said. “Everyone here is banking on substantially lower tuition being the catalyst that will change things.”

The new tuition policy does not apply to diocesan Catholic schools in Livingston County, the Finger Lakes or Southern Tier. Due to their geographic dispersion, these 15 schools historically have operated under the direct management of their local parishes and have set their own tuition rates. Officials noted, however, that enrollment has declined substantially in those regions as well.

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