“One of our initiatives … communicating what Lasallian education is all about.” – Mr. Peter Kennedy
In my role as Director of Admissions at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in Buffalo, NY, I am often confronted with some harsh realities. Providing a Catholic, independent, Lasallian, college-preparatory education in a shrinking market can be an imposing challenge. However, a Lasallian education, by definition, appeals to a broad spectrum of families. The key is to communicate our mission.
The Buffalo/Niagara region, like much of the Northeast U.S., has experienced significant student enrollment decline at Catholic elementary schools. This has been especially challenging at St. Joe’s where, historically, over 70% of students had previously attended Catholic elementary schools.
Our entire recruitment model had focused on attracting Catholic elementary school students and their parents. At the start of the 2010‐11 school year, we found ourselves with an opening enrollment of roughly 700 students. Our strategic plan indicates our school operates optimally between 800 and 825 students, but we had not opened a school year at 800 since 2004‐05. Many local Catholic middle schools have experienced declining enrollment and, in some cases, closures. In fact, three Catholic middle schools within 3 miles of our campus have closed since 2006.
Simply, we needed to rethink our recruitment process. One of our initiatives was to do a better job of communicating what Lasallian education is all about. Our marketing materials now prominently display the Lasallian brand and communicate our inclusive Lasallian mission.
An inclusive private education resonates with parents. While many local public school districts have experienced significant programming cuts, we provide a wealth of opportunities for young men to explore their talents. We teach with Christ at the center, but are open to all ethnicities and religious backgrounds. Our tuition support has increased significantly to offer a St. Joe’s, Lasallian education to all that qualify academically.
When a family first visits campus or makes initial contact with my office, we share our view book, a 16-page overview of our school community. The first page contains the story of the Christian Brothers’ arrival in Buffalo, an explanation of Lasallian education, the qualities of a Lasallian education, the new Lasallian mark and the St. Joe’s mission statement. We begin our relationship with prospective students and their parents with our story and the story of all Lasallian schools.
Conveying the mission of Lasallian schools has been a major part of an increased student enrollment. Along with other new initiatives, including increased tuition support made possible by generous alumni and friends of St. Joe’s, we have experienced a surge in enrollment. This past September, St. Joe’s opened school with over 800 students. Over 50% of students now come to us from non-Catholic schools. Centered on personal relationships, academic excellence, faith formation, service and social justice, a Lasallian education appeals to our present and future students and families, growing our enrollment, and keeping our St. Joe’s educational community thriving.