The Catholic Alumni Partnership is a new project, aimed at helping Catholic elementary schools reconnect with their alumni. Ultimately, the Catholic Alumni Partnership’s vision is to create a sustainable fundraising program for every Catholic elementary school, with alumni support as its foundation.
Today, the Catholic Alumni Partnership includes:
- 8 archdioceses and dioceses in Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut
- 352 elementary schools
- More than 100,000 elementary school students
Why focus on Catholic elementary schools?
There are more than 6,000 Catholic elementary schools in the United States today. The benefits of Catholic schools are undeniable:
- Students in Catholic schools consistently display higher test scores than their public school counterparts, despite coming from equally disadvantaged backgrounds.
- Catholic schools have lower dropout rates (3.4%) than both public (14.4%) and other private schools (11.9%). The dropout problem in America, and the impact of it, is further explored in a TIME Magazine article, Dropout Nation.
- Studies report that Catholic school students performed better than other students in three basic objectives of civil education – the capacity for civic engagement, political knowledge, and political tolerance.
What challenges are Catholic elementary schools facing today?
In spite of this strong history of academic excellence, Catholic schools today are faced with tremendous challenges. A 2009-2010 report by the National Catholic Educational Association emphasized the strong demand and enthusiasm for Catholic schools, and the significant need for increased support:
- Despite waiting lists in nearly 25% of schools, 174 Catholic schools closed last year due to financially strapped budgets.
- Today, tuition in schools covers only 54% of student costs. The balance is typically funded by a combination of a parish subsidy, the Archdiocese/religious community, school fundraising by parents, and contributions from other generous individuals.
- As families are ‘priced out’ of Catholic elementary education, despite waiting lists and a growing American Catholic population (23% of the nation’s population), enrollment suffers. Last year, more than 75,000 fewer students attended Catholic elementary school than in the previous year.
- The increase in tuition costs needed to offset enrollment declines has set off a downward spiral: tuition affects enrollment; enrollment affects tuition.
- Catholic elementary school staff – once comprised of religious men and women – is now predominantly made up of lay men and women. In fact, nationwide, only 4% of staff is religious. This increased need for lay faculty and staff results in ever-growing budgets for schools.
While the product is positive, other indicators are straining Catholic elementary schools. The declining ability of families to pay for Catholic education, coupled with financially strapped budgets, demonstrates the need for philanthropy in supporting Catholic elementary schools.