Last fall, Immaculate Conception School Principal Bernadette Felicione began seeing a disturbing trend.
First, two kids did not return to school in September.
Then, six other dropped out by winter break.
Usually the Northwest Side school looses about two kids during the entire school year, she says.
“We are worried that it’s going to get worse,” Felicione says.
In the sign of the difficult economic times, schools like Immaculate Conception are freezing tuition.
“It’s the current economic climate and the schools’ response to it,” says Ryan Blackburn, the Chicago Archdiocese’s director of school marketing and communications.
Blackburn says individual schools set their own tuition without guidance from the Chicago Archdiocese.
Immaculate Conception decided to keep tuition steady at $4,735 for its more than 440 students. Normally the rate climbs about five percent annually, Felicione says.
The tuition freeze means one of the school’s 30 teachers will be laid off, if no one retires by the end of the school year.
“The teachers know one will be eliminated,” Felicione says. “They do not know who that one is.”
The all-girls Resurrection High School on the North Side is also freezing its tuition at $8,200. Last year, tuition went up $400 from $7,800.
The move by the school’s corporate board was to address the hardships that parents are facing in a flagging economy where many have lost their jobs, principal Lynne Saccaro says.
“They were very sensitive to reality of the economy,” Saccaro says. “We would do anything to help our families.”
Other schools like St. Ann School in Pilsen will not be freezing tuition.
Principal Benny Morten says the school has too many expenses to make such a move.
Also, the $2,500 tuition for parishioners and $2,800 for non-parishioners only goes out about $50 to $100 per year, he says.
Costs like heating the building are expected to go up next year. Tuition helps pay for it, he says.
“We need the money,” Morten says. “Economically, we can’t afford it.”