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Catholic high school enrollment increases buoyed by economy, mini-baby boom

January 23, 2015
Valerie Schmalz

More students are attending Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Thirteen of the 14 Catholic high schools in the archdiocese increased the number of students enrolled from last year to this year and many have seen overall jumps in enrollment over the past five years, according to statistics gathered by the archdiocesan Department of Catholic Schools.

“The mini baby boom in 2000 is now 14 years old and in high school,” said Maureen Huntington, Catholic schools superintendent. “The improved economy is allowing schools to offer more tuition assistance and more families to trust in their future earning capacity to afford tuition and college.”

Enrollment in secondary Catholic schools is up by a total of 215 students for a total of 8,094 students enrolled in Catholic high schools in Marin, San Mateo and San Francisco counties, according to statistics collected by the archdiocesan Department of Catholic Schools.

All four archdiocesan high schools saw enrollment increase, in some cases substantially, from last year to this year. Most saw solid gains when comparing this year to five years ago, according to the archdiocesan schools department data.

All but one of the 10 independent Catholic high schools owned by religious communities increased enrollment from 2013-14 to this school year, according to data compiled by the schools department. Many also increased enrollment over the past five years.

High school enrollment is up overall over the past five years in San Francisco and Marin counties, but San Mateo county high schools have seen an aggregate drop in enrollment during that period of 9.7 percent. However, from 2013-14 to this year, Catholic high school enrollment increased overall in San Mateo County by close to 1 percent.

The four archdiocesan Catholic high schools all increased enrollment.

Marin Catholic High School increased enrollment by 5.1 percent from 2009-10 to 2014-15 from 712 to 748 students. Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, also coeducational and the largest archdiocesan high school, increased enrollment from 1269 to 1289 which is close to capacity for the San Francisco school. Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, an all-boys archdiocesan high school increased its enrollment from last year to this year by 3 percent, up to 885 students.

Archbishop Riordan High School in San Francisco, also all-boys, saw its enrollment grow nearly 18 percent over the past five years, from 575 in 2009-10 to 678 this school year. Riordan’s enrollment rose 6.1 percent from 2013-14 to this year.

“It takes a community to raise a young person,” said Riordan admissions director Derek Tate, summarizing the attraction of faith-driven and academically excellent Catholic schools. “As a school, we have to do a great job of being there for kids when they are successful and helping them when they are not. That’s all part of the educational process.”

Serra president Lars Lund noted faith is the underlying foundation for Catholic schools. “Since 1944, we’ve focused on educating men of faith, wisdom and service-leaders who build community and seek to make a difference in the world,” said Lund.

Enrollment increased 20 percent from 2009-10 to this school year at all-girls Immaculate Conception Academy, a Dominicans of Mission San Jose school which converted to the Cristo Rey Network model in September 2009. The students work five days a month at a corporate site – the school has more than 100 corporate sponsors which fund about 50 percent of its costs – and annual tuition of $2,900 is also frequently mitigated by financial aid. Enrollment rose from 248 in the 2009-10 year to 299 this school year. Principal Lisa Graham said the Cristo Rey model makes “ICA a true option for those who could not otherwise afford a Catholic, college prep high school education.”

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