Catholic schools have faced a number of hurdles in recent decades, including the sharp decline of vocations among religious sisters who have worked in schools (as much as 90 percent in the last four decades), rising tuition prices for families, the sexual abuse crisis, and questions about institutional commitment to maintaining schools in light of these challenges. These changes affect all students and families, but have special significance for those of lower socioeconomic status, who historically used Catholic schools as an engine of upward mobility.
For this policy dialogue, the editors of HEQ asked Paul Grendler and Carol Ann MacGregor to reflect on the benefits, challenges, and turning points of Catholic-sponsored education from the sixteenth century to the present. Grendler is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Toronto, the former president of the Renaissance Society of America and the American Catholic Historical Association, and a recipient of the Galileo Galilei Prize. The author of eleven books, he has published widely on education in the Renaissance. His recent work concentrates on Jesuit universities and Jesuit schools, especially in Italy. MacGregor is Associate Professor of Sociology and current Vice Provost at Loyola University New Orleans. She has also been named an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. Her publications, which have appeared in American Catholic Studies and American Sociological Review (among others), focus on Catholic education policy and practice, and religion and public life.
HEQ Policy Dialogues are, by design, intended to promote an informal, free exchange of ideas between scholars. At the end of the exchange, we offer a list of references to readers who wish to follow up on sources relevant to the discussion.