2 local Catholic high schools see enrollment increases

Enrollment among Catholic elementaries has dropped 28 percent in decade.

Two local Catholic high schools are bucking the trend of falling enrollment at schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

Since 2000, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati — the country’s seventh largest network of Catholic schools with 42,800 students — has been recording annual decreases in enrollment, with the steepest drops in elementary schools. In the past 13 years, enrollment has declined 28 percent on the elementary level, and more than 15 percent in private high schools, according to Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

“We are subject to all the pressures, primarily demographics, that have reduced enrollment at public schools,” said Dan Andriacco, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. “Fewer children are being born … but we often don’t have schools in the very areas that are growing.”

However, officials at Badin and Bishop Fenwick high schools are reporting steady increases in enrollment, including growth of 27 percent in the last decade at Bishop Fenwick High School in Franklin.

The growing enrollment can be attributed to a number of factors, said Betty Turvy, director of admissions at Bishop Fenwick, including increased marketing efforts and opening of the new high school in 2004 with a more accessible location near Interstate 75.

Enrollment at the school has grown from 431 students in 2003, to its current level of 550, according to Turvy.

At its previous location — now John XXIII Catholic Elementary School in Middletown — the high school was more locally based, drawing about 90 percent of students from Middletown, Turvy said. After the move in 2004, Bishop Fenwick began attracting students regionally.

Bishop Fenwick draws students from south Dayton, West Chester and Liberty townships, Middletown, Trenton, Little Miami and down into the Princeton and Loveland school districts. Thirty different ZIP codes are represented in the school’s student enrollment.

Even though enrollment has been trending up, it’s still a challenge to recruit new families, Turvy said.

“We rely on Catholic grade school enrollment,” she said. “But it’s dropping, and you can’t just rely on those students.”

“That’s one reason we’re making a greater effort in public schools — because Catholic elementary enrollment is decreasing,” said Dirk Allen, director of admissions at Hamilton’s Badin High School, who added that 17 percent of the freshman class came from public schools.

Both schools have been increasing the amount of marketing they do in church parishes and public school systems. Non-Catholic enrollment at the schools range from 10 percent to 15 percent.

As part of Gov. John Kasich’s recent two-year education plan, a combined $25 million over the next two years would provide kindergarten to first grade students with new tuition vouchers to attend private schools. The vouchers are for households with income less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level — about $46,000 a year for a family of four.

“Anything that helps parents to be able to afford a Catholic education is going to boost our enrollment,” Andriacco said. “We know that one of the biggest barriers to a parent choosing a Catholic school is the cost of tuition.”

The current freshman class at Badin — consisting of 158 students that will graduate in 2016 — is the school’s largest incoming class in eight years. The students come from 27 different junior high schools.

“We are constantly marketing, and we have widened our net significantly in terms of going well beyond the Hamilton-Fairfield area in encouraging students to join the Badin family,” Allen said. “What we have found out over the years is that students will come a long way to attend your school if they feel it is the right place.”

At a current level of 510 students, Allen said Badin hit its lowest enrollment in 2010 with 450 students.

“The economy is improving and we have a number of public school students choosing to come to Badin,” Allen said. “All of that has had a positive impact on enrollment.”

Badin is forecasting about 540 students for the 2013-14 school year, Allen said. The school’s long-term goal is enrollment of 600 students or more.

Allen said he also attributes the rise in enrollment to the strong focus Badin maintains on continually improving the school, such as the launch of its iPad program this year that has put a tablet in every student’s hands.

At Bishop Fenwick, Turvy said marketing efforts include focusing on academic standings and the success of its students — such as having a 100 percent graduation rate and a nationally recognized engineering program.

The school is also in the middle of a $200,000 investment to upgrade science labs for additional advanced placement courses.

The school’s 2012 graduating class had 73 percent of students offered scholarships, amounting to $9.9 million, Turvy said.

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