The following comes from a June 14 posting on the website of the Cardinal Newman Society.
The survival of Catholic schools depends on new financial models that foster a strong Catholic identity while also lowering tuition for those in need, according to Bishop Michael Barber, S.J., of the diocese of Oakland, Calif.
“The future belongs to new models of Catholic education other than the tuition-based model,” Bishop Barber recently told The Cardinal Newman Society. “Tuition keeps going up and we keep pricing out the students and families who are most in need.”
“Some schools admit larger numbers of non-Catholics to keep it open, then the temptation is to water down the Catholic identity and Catholic components of the school,” he said.
Bishop Barber believes the ideal solution would be to offer a strong Catholic education at lower cost or to find creative ways that allow the students most in need to receive the faithful education their families want for them.
The bishop said getting away from the tuition-based would especially benefit the Latino community in his diocese. “I have schools practically empty,” he said, adding that it is difficult to convince poorer families — Latino or otherwise — to send their children to schools with such high tuition or few financial aid and scholarship programs.
He recalled a Salesian school that is currently struggling to stay open in a poorer part of the diocese. Even though it is struggling, the school is “a beacon of hope” for the people in that community, as all Catholic schools should be. “I am trying my best to find ways to keep them [and other schools] going,” said Bishop Barber.
The Diocese of Oakland has already launched one project to support Catholic education: reshaping the land at diocesan cemeteries to incorporate grapevines that not only beautify the grounds but are now producing wine that provides scholarships for students in need.
“A project like this is important for our Catholic schools, especially in the poor neighborhoods, because the children who need it most are unable to afford it,” Bishop Barber, who used to work in vineyards while a student at the Jesuit novitiate in Los Gatos, Calif., told the Newman Society….
In addition to Bishop’s Vineyard, the diocese is exploring other ways to support Catholic education and to help struggling schools remain open. It is currently exploring the possibilities of starting a Cristo Rey high school, co-sponsoring schools with the Christian Brothers or adopting programs such as the Seton School program in Virginia or Catalyst school program in Chicago….
“Now I’ve noticed a growing trend in the schools in my diocese, particularly high schools. The trend of non-Catholics asking to come into the Church,” said Bishop Barber.
Even at the college level, the response is staggering, he continued. The campus ministries at the University of California, Berkeley — which many people consider one of the most liberal schools in the country — and Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., had two of the largest groups to come into the Catholic Church this past Easter, he said.