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Old 06-14-17, 12:12 PM
Summa Summa is offline
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Originally Posted by Stark Born & Bred View Post
Thanks for putting this together, Slip. I have certainly be a sniper, at times, but I also think I have been very realistic most of the time -- realistic about the present and future of the existing high schools, realistic about the ability to pay for Catholic education in Stark County among its current residents and realistic about what changes our school system will face or must face, like it or not.

I still believe that Catholic education, generally, is becoming more and more unaffordable and the biggest issue facing our schools - now and in the future, is not the location of the building, declining enrollment, the likely and necessary mergers and consolidations, or the Diocese of Youngstown and our lack of independence. In my opinion, it is the fact that the current schools and the future school(s) are and will be tuition-dependent. This forces you to either charge the per pupil rate (which would be 20%, 30%, in the case of some elementary schools 100% higher than the current rate) or fundraise annually to fill that gap in your operating budget. This is draining and rarely allows for forward thinking and planning and capital needs. In short, you are living paycheck-to-paycheck and that is not sustainable.

The lack of substantial endowment dollars at ALL of our schools does not allow for the ups and downs that come with any tuition driven model. In addition, the fixed costs of the building and a minimal/core faculty stay the same regardless of the number of students you have. So despite the fact that tuition has doubled in the past 15 years, enrollment drops have resulted in a larger annual fundraising gap than ever to simply close the gap in the budget.

So, when there is one high school, I think the more important things is to ensure its long-term financial stability. When it comes to building a new school, I think that is a great idea but an unachievable idea all the same. I do not think we could sell off enough current assets, raise enough money and borrow a responsible amount to fill the gap necessary to build a high school, with land acquisition, modern learning space, playing fields, parking, etc. to accommodate 400-500 students. I estimate that cost at $30M-$45M. IF would we could raise half of that, I would be shocked. If we could raise only a quarter of that in an endowment campaign (less sexy and always less successful than capital campaigns), I would much rather have a $7.5M-$11M endowment and utilize our existing facilities than no endowment, but a new building on which we are paying a $20M mortgage.

At the end of the day, my optimism for the future of Catholic education in Stark County is waning. At the end of the day, less people want the product you are selling. You can blame the consumer (parents and students), you can blame management (DOY, administration), and you can blame the market (demographics of our community and the fact that dedicated Catholics exist in fewer numbers and with less enthusiasm than before). You also need to look at your product and the perceived value of that product. Whether we like it or not, it is a product that is not being bought. For some, they like their public school option better. For some, it is simply unaffordable and we do not have well thought out, legitimate financial aid programs where the dollars are replaced by endowment fund distributions (in short, they are just discounts which further tax your annual fundraising base). For some, Catholicism is less important to them than ever before or perhaps not important at all making it very difficult to justify the expense of tuition.

I have no answers, but those are my thoughts.
I agree with most of this but obviously not your take on a new building. New buildings in better locations do, in fact, increase enrollment, increase fundraising and increase endowment. The evidence is pretty clear on this everywhere it has been done. That is why all the consulting groups state this fact including ones hired by the DOY to assess the schools. Interest in a new building must be explored in good faith. If there is no interest or insufficient interest by donors then we are no worse off. We will just have to agree to disagree on this point.

Cardinal Wuerl is a perfect example of this. The new school only had 286 students in 2014 and was up to 447 in 2016. The goal is to increase to 1,000. The old school "North Catholic" would have likely closed had it not been moved and a new building been built. Attempting to keep the school at the old location and trying to build up the endowment would not have saved North Catholic from closure.

Last edited by Summa; 06-14-17 at 02:01 PM.
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