Rochester Catholic Schools sees 50% increase among new enrollment applications

Assuming next year's enrollment is on the low end of the projection, it would still represent an increase of 13.6% in just two years.

Lourdes Graduation
Lourdes graduates throw their caps after their commencement ceremony on Friday, May 27, 2022, in Rochester, Minnesota.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin file photo

ROCHESTER — After years of seeing its enrollment decline, Rochester Catholic Schools has experienced a turnaround.

The parochial school system has seen a 50% increase among new applications for enrollment for 2023-24 compared with the current year. While that may be a ray of sunshine in and of itself, it's just the most recent indication that the system is turning a page.

That increase in new applications follows a second year of upward growth for the school system.

"Our preschool growth has been pivotal," RCS President Annemarie Vega said. "This year alone, we grew 15% in the preschool."

In 2018-19, the enrollment at RCS was 1,441. The next year it was 1,351, before dropping to 1,217 in the pandemic year of 2020-21. In 2021-22, it rose to 1,304. The current year enrollment is 1,347. The projected enrollment for 2023-24 is anywhere from 1,383 to 1,425.


Assuming next year's enrollment is on the low end of the projection, it would still represent an increase of 13.6% in just two years. The high end of the projection would represent over 17% growth over the same two years.

A lot of that growth has been in the lower grades, like the 15% increase in preschool enrollment. RCS also welcomed 58 transfers into its middle schools from other systems.

"That was really the bubble that a lot of Catholic Schools, including us, experienced," Vega said. "For us, it's about supporting and retaining those families and embracing and loving them through 12th grade. The funnel from the bottom up is really what's going to help Lourdes thrive."

As a private institution, RCS charges tuition. For 2023-24, the cost per student in grades K-8 will be $7,825. For a student in high school, that tuition will be $10,750. For international high school students, the tuition will be $13,125.

Aside from the bubble during the pandemic, Vega attributes the increase in enrollment to several factors. One is that the school system started accepting applications earlier in the year.

RCS also has made a more concerted effort to broaden its enrollment outreach to the Latino community. That has included partnering with the University of Notre Dame and its Latino Enrollment Institute.

"We've yearly been sending educators, pastors, principals to learn about the Latino culture and how we can support them for their children's education," said Monica Steinmetz, RCS director of admissions.

The school system also hired a Latino enrollment coordinator who is tasked with building bridges between Rochester Catholic Schools the Latino community in the area.


The school system has also been working to increase the profile of Hispanic culture within the schools themselves. RCS schools celebrate Hispanic festival dates such as Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead; and Dia de los Ninos, Day of the Child.

They've also hosted parent nights in Spanish and have worked with the schools to create a welcoming atmosphere for Hispanic students. Roughly 7% to 8% of the student body is Latino, Vega said.

Karina Velazquez Rowles, an admissions assistant who focuses on the Latino community, said the outreach has been important since some families never thought of a private education as a possibility that was available to them, even though that faith-based education is something they value.

Both she and Vega emphasized the importance of reaching out to the Latino community due to its status with the future of the Catholic church.

"They look at it now as an option," Velazquez Rowles said about a Catholic education. "It's important that our kids grow up with an education based on faith values."

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or
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