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Catholic School Attendance Stabilizing Somewhat in Chicago Archdiocese

(This archived article was published in 2013.  More recent data is found in the articles section of our web site). After years of decline attendance levels in the Chicago Archdiocese schools appear to have generally leveled off. The Chicago Archdiocese covers Chicago, Cook and Lake Counties in Illinois. Catholic education was at its peak in the 1960s when there were 526 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese. In 2013 the numbers shrank to 250. Census numbers are obviously a critical factor in the appraisal of private and public schools. Attendance levels at schools in the Chicago Archdiocese were reported as follows over the years.  1979/80189,611  1989/90154,579  2000/01127,758  2007/0896,197  2009/1089,139  2010/1187,758  2011/1286,502  For 2013 the Chicago Archdiocese announced that school attendance increased 675 over the prior year. The Chicago Archdiocese reported that increases in pre-school, kindergarten and first grade levels have seen a combined 10 percent increase compared to the past three years. The Associated Press (January 23, 2013) cited Catholic schools superintendent Sister M. Paul McCaughey as attributing it primarily due to an increase in donations which permitted more additional aid for students to join the district.  The Chicago Archdiocese overall enrollment appears to be somewhat consistent with national trends. According to the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) the number of catholic schools has shown steady declines. In the 2011/12 school year, there was a negative absorption of 133 schools as 34 new schools opened but 167 were consolidated or closed. Declining census may result in lower school appraisal values unless alternate users can be found. They report 6,841 Catholic Schools nationally in 2011/12 versus 7,498 in 2006/07 and 8,114 in 2001/02. National Catholic School enrollment was 2,031,455 with 1,440,572 (71%) in elementary/middle school and 590,883 (29%) in secondary schools. Nationally, the average per pupil elementary school cost was $5,387 with the mean tuition at $3,637. The balance was made up from church support or other donations. For secondary school the mean freshman cost was $10,288 per student and tuition was $8,182. This would compare to an average public school cost (data not broken out between elementary and secondary school) of $11,282. In the Chicago Archdiocese school costs are broken out as follows for 2011/12: Elementary school cost per pupil$4,665 High School cost per pupil$13,648  Schools Elementary High School Total Chicago114 23 137  Cook82 14 96  Lake20 3 23  Total 216 40 256  The funding of private schools is always one of the most critical factors for success. The Chicago Archdiocese reports that 73% of school income sources is from tuition, 15% fund raising, 4% archdiocesan, 1% Big Shoulders Grants and 7% Parish Support. Of the 215 elementary schools 187 are parish sponsored, 14 are multi parish sponsored, 8 are Archdiocesan sponsored and 7 have private sponsorship. We do see a potential shift to ever increasing multi-parish support for schools. With many schools and churches shrinking in size it can be increasingly difficult for a single church to support a school. The Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Dolan reports that beginning in September of 2013 they will be moving to a more regional support system. Each congregation in a region will contribute money to the school system to spread the costs more equitably and have a better supported school within that area. At Religious Property Valuation, Ltd. we appraise a lot of churches and schools in the Chicago metropolitan area. We have seen several Chicago area schools become a drag on a congregation if the attendance for either the church or school drop below a critical mass. A multi-parish or more regional funding mechanism could enable a higher quality education for their students that maximizes utilization of the schools in better condition and can maintain more viable student teacher ratios. The proper appraisal of Chicago schools or religious facilities requires an understanding of long term trends and community issues to come up with realistic valuations. In many cases the Chicago school appraisal is not just of a freestanding school or freestanding church, but a combination of both on the same property. Church/School valuation is an appraisal specialty that requires an in depth knowledge of this market.

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