For many families, private or parochial school has been an unaffordable pipe dream; since the financial crash of 2008, parents are finding it more and more difficult to pay for a private education and still make ends meet. Two Catholic schools in Massachusetts, however, are looking to change that by expanding financial aid and making their own educational programs more affordable to students and their families—many of which would not be able to afford a private education without help.

Coyle & Cassidy High School and Middle School and their sister institution St. Mary’s Primary School are two private schools located 40 miles south of Boston in the city of Taunton, MA. They were hit hard by the economic downturn as well, and Coyle & Cassidy saw their student body drop from 800 students in 2009 to only 350 in 2016. St. Mary’s enrollment dropped from 300 to 142. The numbers reflect a nationwide downturn in enrollment, based upon high tuition amounts that can rival college costs.

Interestingly enough, even with the decreased student population, neither school is in financial peril—according to school officials, both are still “thriving,” with all academic and athletic programs still going strong.

The problem, as the schools put it, isn’t lack of money, but empty seats. Coyle & Cassidy President Mary Pat Tranter calls the schools “an underutilized resource,” and wants to reverse that trend by expanding financial aid programs and offering more in-house options to kids and their families as opposed to them relying on federal and other places for student loans like private banks and lenders.

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The money is being made available by the Diocese of Fall River, where the schools are located. Diocese officials are offering $2 million in new financial aid funds to Catholic schools in the area, including both Coyle & Cassidy and St. Mary’s, and Tranter is hoping that area families will take advantage of the funds to send their kids to private school.

Coyle & Cassidy fits the private school scenario; with an academically tough curriculum and high-ranked athletic teams, their students routinely outperform their public school peers. Since the school is exempt from “teach to the test” mandates, they are free to offer more individualized instruction; the small class size—even at full student capacity—means more attention and focus on each student.

Currently one-third of students at Coyle & Cassidy receive some form of financial aid to meet the tuition requirements of $9450 for high school students and $6350 for middle school students. Tranton, along with her counterparts at St. Mary’s, hope to raise that figure with the new funds available. It is interesting to see how financial aid questions are being asked so early in the education process.