America Magazine recently asked Partnership Superintendent Kathleen Porter-Magee about the future of Catholic schools, particularly in light of the first U.S. Catholic school enrollment increase in decades.
To translate the one-year enrollment boomlet into an enduring shift, Catholic schools need to do two things. First, we need to double down on the kind of values-driven, principled leadership that drove the Catholic schools response to Covid in 2020 and 2021. Second, we must bring the same creative problem-solving they brought to pandemic leadership—clearing a glide path to reopening schools and balancing safety with the need for in-person learning—and apply it not just to marketing, but also to admissions and enrollment. We too often erect barriers to entry rather than clearing a path and opening doors.
We faced this challenge head-on at Partnership Schools, when enrollment at our seven New York City Catholic schools dropped to an historic low in 2020. When we analyzed our own admissions and enrollment policies and data, we came to a surprising conclusion: We had erected academic and paperwork barriers to entry that were so high that we were unintentionally driving away exactly the families we most wanted to serve…
…By reducing barriers to entry and streamlining admissions, while deciding not to increase tuition and fees during the crisis, we actually increased tuition revenue while extending our mission to serve an even greater number of needy children.
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