WESTFIELD –St. Mary’s High School enrollment is increasing, and Principal Matthew Collins is celebrating, particularly because the school board has barely begun recruitment efforts.
“In the 2018/2019 school year we had 70 students, and right now we have 76,” Collins said. “That’s just under a 10-percent increase, and we are growing.”
Collins said this year there are new sophomores and juniors, and even a senior transferring in.
“Once a student comes in for a ‘Shadow Day,’ they see what we are about and they want to stay,” said Collins. “Once they see the atmosphere here, they fall in love.”
School enrollment was declining, Collins admitted, however since he took over more than a year ago, there’s an uptick. Since STMHS became a Diocesan high school this summer – the only one in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield – there are more resources available to the school, including a partnership with a national Catholic school enrollment company.
“They will take a deep-dive into enrollment for our school and Catholic schools in the area and develop a plan,” Collins said. However, with a newly reconstituted STMHS board, which includes recruitment and marketing subcommittees, the numbers have already begun to grow.
“We increased without [the enrollment specialists], so I look forward to seeing what we can do together,” Collins said.
Tuition at STMHS is around $8,600 per student, but Collins said it costs more to educate students than what they charge.
“We are committed to keeping costs down and we are committed whole-heartedly to providing an education to any student who wishes to come to St. Mary’s,” he said, adding several options for financial assistance are available on a needs-basis.
“In the past two years we have awarded over $90,000 to families who need tuition assistance,” Collins said, noting the funds came from donations, grants and fundraisers.
Diocese Superintendent Daniel Baillargeon has been talking about “right sizing” the school, Collins said, and researching how to best educate students.
“I’m enthusiastic,” he said. “We have great retention – when students come here, they stay. And now, for the first time in many years, we are seeing increasing enrollment.”