Nuns as teachers=lower tuition?

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Several questions here: Let me say that I am a convert. Never attended Catholic school at all.
  1. Just wondering if the reason for many school closings due to decreasing enrollment is that the cost has increased outrageously? I would assume the modest stipend of the nuns to be much less than the salary + benefits of the lay teacher. Correct or no?
Does anyone know what the average tuition is for Catholic school in the US, elementary & high school? How does that compare to say 40 or 50 yrs ago when nuns were predominately teaching?(Adjusted for inflation or changed into todays dollar)
  1. Why did Catholic schools stop hiring nuns as teachers? Or was it that nuns no longer wanted to teach? Know of any books on the subject to recommend?
Thank You,
I also am a convert. I have wondered the same thing. We homeschool , Catholic schools are way out of my price range.
My kidshave attended Catholic schools in other states ( up north)
where it was much more affordable.
Consider homeschooling…even in a Catholicschool kids learn anti-social behavior from peers.
I have to be careful answering this one. I use my real name as my “log-in name” and I am a member of my parish’s finance committee so I can’t use ‘exact figures’. I would never dream of breaking my promise of confidentiality.

The highest cost in running a Catholic School is by far employee expenses (salary, employer taxes, health benefits). Catholic teachers in Philadelphia receive nowhere near the salary that teachers in the public school system receive, but the costs are still very high.

Nuns do not get paid at the same scale as lay teachers, but do receive a ‘living wage’.

The archdiocese would love to have more teaching Nuns, not just because of the reduced expenses but also because of the example that Nuns give to our children. There just aren’t as many young women following their vocations as there used to be.
  1. Just wondering if the reason for many school closings due to decreasing enrollment is that the cost has increased outrageously?
It was also due to changing demographics. Until about 1960, many inner city neighborhoods had been traditionally Catholic ethnic groups. You had your Irish neighborhoods, Italian, Polish, etc. As people moved out to the suburbs and the old traditional neighborhood broke down, many inner city parishes lost a large portion of their membership. Much of the Catholic school closings and restructurings that happened in the 70’s and early 80’s were inner city parishes and had as much to do with membership as nuns.
I would assume the modest stipend of the nuns to be much less than the salary + benefits of the lay teacher. Correct or no?
Absolutely. Nuns took a vow of poverty. Back before Vatican II, they weren’t paid at all. A parish usually had a rectory with a half dozen priests and a convent with a dozen or more nuns. The parish paid their living expenses. They originally started paying religious so that they would have an earnings record and be eligible for social security retirement benefits.
Does anyone know what the average tuition is for Catholic school in the US, elementary & high school? How does that compare to say 40 or 50 yrs ago when nuns were predominately teaching?(Adjusted for inflation or changed into todays dollar)
It would vary by section of the country, obviously. Using data points from Ohio and Maryland, I think $5-6k for elementary school and $7-9K for High School is not unusual. However, many parishes will subsidize the cost for their own parishioners. For example, in my parish, an “active” parishioner (which means you at least attend weekly Mass, meet your obligation to provide financial support to the parish, and are active in at least one parish ministry like volunteering at the school, pro-life committee, etc) will have 50% of the tuition subsidized by the parish.

In addition, many parishes and schools provide a multi-child discount. When I used to be on the Board at one school, we explicitly provided the multi-child discount because we felt it was very important to provide support to those families who were accepting Church teachings on openness to life, and had accepted the responsibility to have a large family. Our discount structure was
  1. *] First child at 100% tuition
    *]Second child paid 75% of tuition.
    *]Third child paid 25% of tuition.
    *]Fourth child and up were free.

    In my current parish school, my three children receive both a multi-child discount as well as the parish subsidy for active parishioners. I pay a little over $5k per year for all three.

    To compare, I was the oldest of seven schildren. In the 1960’s, my Dad paid $100 per year for me, $50 per year for the 2nd + 3rd child, and the 4th and up were free at our parish elementary school. I went through 4 years of a private all-boys Jesuit High School for $50 per year.

    Now, I think a hundred bucks in the sixties would be about $400 now, but I haven’t really pulled up the CPI for the last 40 years.
    1. Why did Catholic schools stop hiring nuns as teachers?
    They are GONE. We’ve lost tens of thousand of nuns since the sixties due to leaving their order or retirement. There haven’t been the new vocations coming in. For example, Ohio Dominican College in Columbus, Ohio used to be St Marys of the Springs. Back in the days, they had a convent at the school that held 500 nuns. I think there are about 10 now, but I am not sure of the number.

    As an aside, I’ve heard we are having a large influx of women religious who are choosing orders that still wear a habit, whereas the orders that abandoned the habit are dying on the vine as the older nuns retire.
It is a sad fact that most of the nuns are gone…

For most families with more than the protestant two kids average, catholic schooling is simply out of reach financially. Our local parish school is about 6.5K for two kids, 8k for three… all of the high schools in our diocese are 7.5k and up. We currently have 3 kids under 4, and want and are open to more children. My husband makes a very good salary, but we simply cannot afford Catholic school for all of them without me returning to work. We don’t feel that having both of us work will ultimately benefit our children, so we will probably homeschool as there is no way in heck we are sending them to public school indoctrination camps (we live in OR)…

The nuns truly did a wonderful service to our Church!
Yes, nuns were paid less than lay people, and in some cases paid not at all, aside from room and board and a stipend. Lay teachers on the other hand need a living wage plus health benefits. The reason we have fewer of them is not that the dioceses won’t hire them, but that there are simply few nuns left. I feel greatly blessed to have a habit wearing nun in our preschool.
One local parish school has a habit wearing consecrated virgin as principal.

One of the great losses to Catholic schools has been the example, day in and day out, of religious people as REAL, priests and nuns who are live human beings, with personalities and tempers and flaws and marvelous idiosyncracies. People you could grow up to be like. Today, many children graduate from Catholic schools without ever having had a real conversation with a single religious. So of course they don’t usually consider a vocation to the religious life as something valid for themselves.

Also, all those nuns used to pray for vocations. Fewer nuns praying, fewer vocations happening. 😦

Our wonderful little Catholic school is barely afloat financially, and we pay our teachers dirt, well below the local diocesan pay scale, which in turn is easily $10K- $12K a year below what a rookie public school teacher would make. Luckily, most of our teachers consider this work a missionary outreach and are content with their poverty wages, though they do grumble occasionally. Human beings are like that. 😉
As a Catholic school teacher, I know how much of the budget salaries take up - although the past two years it’s been insurance (both healthcare for staff and liability) that seem to be pushing tuition higher. Teachers don’t make enough but I’m smart enough to realize that we can price our way out of parent’s means. I try not to complain too much about the salary because it is my choice to teach where I do - I could easily go to a public school because my field is usually in demand.

The good thing about my low salary - I don’t have to win too much in the lottery to let us live at level we’ve been accostomed to!!!

I remember 25 years ago in High School, we only had 3 nuns! One worked in the Library and 2 others taught. That was a BIG change when my grade school, 40% were nuns.

While the demographics of the Church is swinging back to orthodoxy, maybe the increase of vocations will shape our Catholic schools again!

go with God!
A few years ago a young man I had sponsored through RCIA had completed his education degree at about the same time he entered the church. He could have taught at either a Catholic or a public school. And he was just getting married! While I don’t remember the figures he told me, I recall being startled at the large discrepancy between what he could earn in public schools compared to Catholic schools. I even advised him that in his circumstances he should take the higher paying job! But he was determined to teach at Catholic school and that is what he did.

Another thing. I think that the education of Catholic children should be the responsibility of the entire parish, not just those who have children in the school at any given time.

The teaching nuns are gone. Pray for more orders of teaching nuns.
My daughter went to an all girls Catholic school and it closed within two years due to “lack of funding.” My uncle, who had been on the diocesan school board, was invited to talk to the nuns who ran the school when they were considering having to close it. They asked him why he thought they were having problems. He talked about the cost of lay teachers vs. nuns teaching the children. They said, “Well, we just don’t have that many vocations any more.” He responded, “Well, sister, why do you think that is? You no longer wear habits; you wear street clothes. What are you saying about what you have to offer that’s different from any lay vocation?” They got mad and asked him to leave. When they finally did close the school, the evening local news showed film clips of when the school was thriving and when it was closing. It was such a clear picture of night and day. When it was thriving, they had all nun teachers wearing full habits. When they were closing, the only way you could “maybe” pick out the nuns were they had little gold crosses pinned to their business suits.

When God calls someone to the religious life, He calls them to be IN the world, but not OF the world. When religious orders become worldly, vocations drop off. I have a first cousin who is a Domincan nun in Nashville. They have a waiting list to get in! Young girls are flocking to this group to join. Why? Because they are living the way God intended them to. They wear the traditional full habit of Dominican nuns. They’re both a contemplative and a teaching order. They follow the rules laid out by St. Dominic, and are taught by those following the rules! The mother superior of that group told my aunt and uncle that they were there to make saints! In fact, an older (90’s) nun died while they were there and they were invited to the funeral. When this old nun had taken her final vows many, many years before, she wrote her vows in a handwritten letter to Jesus, just as they do now. That letter was retrieved from the archives of the old building where the order lives and put in her hands in her casket as a witness that she had remained faithful to her vows all those many years since she took them as a young teenage girl! What a witness! As a contrast, one of the nuns who had taught my cousin in high school was from the Sisters of Mercy who had basically thrown their habits off for business suits. She made the comment that her order had NO new vocations and at 52, was the youngest nun in her order. She was visibly upset by what she saw, because she realized what her order could have been…vibrant and growing! Anyway, I just thought I’d share that with everyone as “food for thought.” 🙂
Given the extremely harsh criticism people (even on this board) have about today’s nuns, it’s a wonder anyone would consider it a proper vocation.

Gone are the days of huge communities with plenty of nuns to staff the schools. Many orders have shifted from classroom teaching to parish administration because they’re filling in for the lack of priests. Gone are the days when a young woman didn’t even need to finish high school before entering the convent. Now you have to have your college degree, pay off every last one of your debts (though a few orders will pay off student loans), and have worked in a profession for a certain length of time before the orders will even consider you. Why? Because it’s a huge investment of time and money to train a novice. Accepting someone too young or ill-prepared to handle the life means the orders’ meager resources are lost.

As for the difference between the salaries of the lay teacher and the sisters, we didn’t distinguish when I was on the parish finance committee. What the nun was paid was reported to the Social Security Administration and counted towards her pension. Cutting her salary would cut her SS payments later in life. A big chunk of it also went into their 403(b) accounts and was matched by the parish. Remember, the orders aren’t very self-sustaining anymore…and no one’s expecting that to improve. The sisters would then donate 50% of their adjusted salaries to their orders to care for the older sisters who never qualified for Social Security.

What does it cost to run a Catholic school? A huge, underpaid staff; an active Development staff; a strong principal who’s going to be torn into 25 different directions at once; an endowment fund to make up the tens of thousands of dollars that tuition doesn’t cover; and about $4000-15,000/year per student…depending on the number of students enrolled, the staffing needs, the quality of the building (and amount of work that it needs and cost of utilities), and the financial support of the rest of the parish. Those without a parish are at an even bigger disadvantage. Regina Dominican on the North Shore of Chicago costs $28,000/year per student to keep open…and it’s a private high school with a healthy endowment. If not for the alumnae, it would have closed years ago.
The nuns made tuition very low or nonexistent for many years.

Parish collections made up the difference. Now tuitions make up that difference (teachers salaries) with parish support.

It is my belief that if parishioners see that the school is worthy of their donations then they will support a parish school. The dioceses’ are mandating a reduction in parish subsidy because they believe their are other uses for that money. A result is that the tuitions go up. The result of that is the enrollment goes down. The result of that is the schools are no longer supported and they close.

Bottom-line - The schools are increasingly on their own. Pastors are reluctant to ask for money, because of the negative feedback, so they leave it up to each individual to determine if they want to support a parish school.

I believe if properly marketed, with the pulpit support of the pastor, and if parishioners see the good fruit of their school they would again be more for supporting a parish school with little tuition. In a typical parish of 1,000 families if each gave 20.00 per week specifically earmarked for school support, it would net over 1million dollars per year to the school. In most schools it would raise teachers salaries, and increase enrollment. Most schools I know of operate on a total budget of between 500,000 to 1,000,000 per year for arounf 200-250 students.

It is an attitude that begins with seeing the value of a Catholic education. This attitiude and basic tenet of the Church has been drastically diminished.
I don’t know about averages, but here in the Baltimore area, Catholic high schools (single sex or mixed) are anywhere from $5000 to $7000/ year. I don’t know how large families, whose children are close in age, manage.

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