Another Catholic School Closing

Another Catholic School Closing
I was saddened to hear of Saint Joseph’s College closing in Rensselaer, Indiana.
As a lifelong Catholic who is the product of Catholic schools on all levels (including college), I hate to hear of Catholic schools closing.
But this one is personal because I’ve visited that campus and considered it for my undergraduate education.
Saint Joe’s was the my first official college visit in the autumn of 1993, coming from Brother Rice High School on the south side, these small Midwestern Catholic colleges (Clarke, Saint Xavier, Lewis, St Norbert’s, in WI, etc.,), seemed like the natural progression and they recruited us.
My first visit was supposed to be Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa but the Mississippi river flooded to historic levels so we went to Saint Joe’s.
This was in the days before I went to Indianapolis a lot and my only Indiana experience was camping in Plymouth, going to shows in Merrillville and visiting my cousins in Gary (What up Bryan!), so going into rural Indiana was kind of foreign.
We get to campus and its sizable (over 600 acres), and in the middle of nowhere, I think there was a Kmart and a Pizza Hut nearby and that was it.
For a city kid that was terrifying to have that few food and shopping options.
But the school was nice, campus was beautiful and the people were friendly. I went dressed like I did for Brother Rice at the time (it was a Sunday), dress pants, shirt, tie and my (at the time fashionable), Starter jacket and I stood out. When I told people I was from Chicago they said “ooh big city”.
The school looked like a larger version of Brother Rice, architecture and interiors were similar, standard Catholic school stuff. I admit it did seem a little dated and it wasn’t terribly diverse but I was used to that.
But I honestly was looking for a little more from a college, nothing against Saint Joe’s but DePaul University here in Chicago was a much better fit for me. It’s also the alma mater of my mother and one of our late cousins.
But the fact remains we are losing Catholic schools on all levels at a heightened rate, in fact since 1990 (when my grade school Seven Holy Founders closed), it’s been at an alarming rate.
I understand tuition is high and it doesn’t cover all costs, especially with less religious brothers and sisters teaching (who were not at the same pay rate as lay people), and that donations are down and education overall is expensive.
I also understand that St Joe’s was trying to expand and that they had a trust that the school operates on. My family has a trust, I know that’s not always easy.
Not to forget the tradition some schools have and it’s challenging when times change, St Joes has well over 100 years of history and they are rural.
My alma mater DePaul University is not immune to all of this. They are closing their Naperville campus, higher education is changing rapidly and campus life isn’t the same especially for those of us who went to college 20 years ago.
Earlier this week I was discussing with my wife the extraordinary costs of Catholic school tuition on all levels and how you can be “spent out” after elementary school much less high school and college.
And the options of community college, trade school and even the military might be more economical options for people to get educated. And that leaves Catholic school out of the picture, solely on price.
Like I’ve said Catholic school is special but it’s also a privilege (and in some places a dying breed), our faith is strong and we are not going anywhere but some of these schools are and it’s simply a sign of the times.

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