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Catholic School Enrollment Sees Sharpest Drop in Nearly 50 Years

Enrollment at Catholic schools this academic year has seen its largest drop in nearly half a century, according to a new report.

A data brief of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) showed that enrollment at Catholic schools was down 6.4% for the 2020-2021 school year—the biggest percentage drop in enrollment since 1973. 

The overall number of students at Catholic schools declined by more than 110,000 for the present academic year, and more than 200 schools closed after the previous school year; these figures were included in the NCEA’s report “Catholic School Enrollment and School Closures, Post-COVID-19,” published on Feb. 8.

A large share of this decline was due to enrollment attrition at pre-Kindergarten schools.

“Of the net loss of 111,000 students to Catholic schools from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021, 40% of that loss can be attributed to Pre-Kindergarten related enrollment attrition,” the NCEA said. “This mirrors similar losses in public school preschool and Kindergarten enrollment.” 

Despite Catholic pre-Kindergarten schools remaining open  —and national enrollment having trended “slightly upwards” — pre-Kindergarten enrollment dropped 26.6% for this academic year.

Catholic elementary education also saw a sharper decline, compared to Catholic secondary schools.  

Enrollment at Catholic elementary schools was down 8.1% in 2020-2021, compared to a decrease of 2.5% Catholic secondary schools. The enrollment figures for secondary schools decreased the same amount in 2020-2021 compared to the 2019-2020 school year, but Catholic elementary schools lost nearly 5% more students this academic year than last year. 

Read more at National Catholic Register

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