Catholic education around the country is making a major comeback.
While public schools have been struggling to bounce back from over a year of virtual learning, Catholic schools have been gaining territory. An article in America magazine connects a 3.8% increase in enrollment in 2021-22 with the commitment to in-person learning. This uptick breaks a 20-year skid in enrollment and is a possible indicator of widespread resurgence in private education.
This enrollment increase points to a significant trend and could point to a shift in how private education is being perceived across the nation. We certainly know that there are various reasons for choosing to send one’s children to private, christian schools: faith, educational excellence, commitment to smaller classrooms and to an in-person approach to learning.
But why has this increase in Catholic enrollment happened? Is it a shift towards private elementary schools or a shift away from the public education system?
The Costs of Public Education
The 2020 Census found that school attendance for all schools was just over 73 million, 48 million of which were in public schools (K-12th grade). In 2019-2020, the average cost to send one student to public school was $13,494. The following year (that is last school year) that number was $15,205.
The Cost Benefit of Private Education
According to the Private School Review, the average cost to send a student to private school in that same year was $11,645, almost $4,000 less than public schools. In fact, private elementary and middle schools is less expensive on average than public school in 42 states. Without wanting to over-generalize, it seems that we can add sheer cost as another reason to choose private education.
Decline in Public School Enrollment
Public school and charter school enrollment is still down 1.3 million than when the pandemic began. This is a staggering statistic. With population growth factored in, the fact that enrollment has decreased in raw numbers means that the impact is far greater when taken as a percentage.
The Search for Public School alternatives
One study shows that, on the other hand, private school enrollment increased 53% during COVID. This is an even more staggering statistic. Whatever the reasons for choosing Catholic elementary schools – and there are several – the educational landscape is trending across the nation towards choosing faith-filled, student-first classrooms.
If you are considering making the move to a private education in Philadelphia – or know someone else who is – please consider St. Margaret as a possible option. The average classroom size and the student-first mentality at St. Margaret puts us in line with the countless other Catholic schools in the Philadelphia area that are continuing to flourish and grow.