DETROIT (AP) — State data shows more than 200 of Michigan’s private schools have closed over the past decade, and many school leaders are blaming a shrinking student population, fewer resources and rising costs.
About 112,000 Michigan students attended private schools in 2018, which is a 14% decrease from roughly a decade ago, according to the state’s Center for Educational Performance and Information.
“The school-age population has shrunk and the economics of it have been really difficult,” said Brian Broderick, executive director of the Michigan Association of Non-public Schools. The group represents nearly 400 Catholic, Lutheran and Christian schools across the state.
St. Sebastian School in Dearborn Heights is preparing to close this month, the Detroit Free Press reported .
Rev. Walter Ptak told church members in March that the move comes as the parish school faces changing demographics and financial challenges.
St. Sebastian will soon join a list of dozens of Catholic schools that have shut down in the past 10 years.
Of the private school closures in the last decade, 60 were unaffiliated religious schools, 46 were Catholic schools, and 19 were Baptist, among others. Thirty-seven were nonreligious schools.
“I think the cost is what’s driving it,” said Mike Butler, a Michigan lawyer who attended Catholic schools. “With a smaller population, you can’t do anything about that. But it’s very tough financially to run one.”
Dearborn Christian School closed in Dearborn in 2014.
Tim DeKruyter was involved in the decision as the school’s board president at the time. He said the school faced a shrinking congregation and responded by trying to open its doors to more people in the community who weren’t involved with its church. But the dwindling congregation ultimately forced the closure.
“One of the administrators said it’s a three-legged stool: church, family and teachers,” DeKruyter said. “If any of those legs go, it’s history.”