Tag: religious

Secular Criteria for Colleges Can’t Tell the Whole Story

With a recent article published by Newsmax on the top 40 Traditional Catholic and Jesuit Colleges in America, some debate has been raised on the topic of secular college standards versus faith being the defining factor in choosing a school. Managing editor of the Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College, Adam Wilson, argues that a college’s Catholic identity should be of paramount concern.


“Students must weigh all options, including a school’s selection of majors, its location, post-graduation job success rate, class size, and student-to-faculty ratio.” Says Newmax, but then it also goes on to say that legacy and influence are subjective criteria compared to statistics like student retention rates. While these factors are great to take into consideration, do they accurately portray the Catholic structure of the college and the ideals that it espouses?


A Newsmax rep spoke with The Cardinal Newman Society to explain “that special consideration was given to “institutions that allow students to give back or care for others while growing spiritually,” but that they ultimately “wanted the list to feature exceptional institutions that ‘strike the perfect balance between integrating faith and reason with a rigorous academic education.’” Only one of the universities in the Newsmax ratings is recommended by the Newman Society for its commitment to a faithful Catholic education. Georgetown University, on the Newsmax list as the number two top Catholic college has actually had a canon law petition filed against it due to the numerous Catholic identity abuses, demanding that the university either remove it’s Catholic affiliation or take significant steps to restore the Catholic identity it once held.


So where should you look to for a college that is based in spirituality but also hits the academic criteria desired for success of the students? Keeping in mind that it is not just a college of faith that is important, and if they adhere to what the Church envisions for Catholic universities, but also that the students will enroll in institutions that aim to strike the perfect balance between integrating faith and reason with a rigorous academic education. The legwork here mainly falls to you. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has compiled a list of Catholic Colleges and Universities in the United States that gives you a base to jump of from, and everyone looking into a Catholic institution should read the apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, Ex corde Ecclesiae. It is important that the institutions and bishops in the United States are understanding and using the application of that document to bring their identity in line with the Church’s vision. The only way you can know if the needs of the college are aligned with the needs of your family and your faith is to ask the important questions yourself. Class size and student retention, while important factors to consider, simply are not representative of the ideals of a college or it’s ability to nourish a student’s faith. Campus ministry and residence life, as well as the faculty and percentage of Catholic students in attendance are all integral to the process.


As Pope Benedict XVI addressed to Catholic educators in 2008 where the Holy Father stated that “Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics.” Instead, Catholic identity “demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith. In this way, our institutions make a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society,” he continued. “They become places in which God’s active presence in human affairs is recognized and in which every young person discovers the joy of entering into Christ’s ‘being for others.’”


Catholic Schools Can Be Marketed for Image, Enrollment & Dollars

“Steven Virgadamo” suggests that marketing simply stated is the right message, delivered to the right person at the right place and the right time.
catholic-instituitionFor more than 25 years, I have been involved in leading, managing, and governing Catholic Institutions. (Consider joining “Steven Virgadamo” hosts Leading, Managing and Governing Catholic Education Group at LinkedIn)  I have worked for schools, dioceses, religious congregations and various other Catholic apostolates.   I have helped to prepare pastors, principals and diocesan leaders for their respective leadership roles. Last week I was invited to work with a school in the Deep South. During the time assisting the School Board members and the school administrators, I discovered that they had already solicited the parents who would be new to the school with the 2012-2013 school year.  This fundraising strategy seemed so uncivilized and certainly did not correlate with what I have learned about southern hospitality from years of working in many of the (Arch) dioceses located in the southern portion of our country. I became even more concerned when I met one of the parents who had just enrolled their first child a preschooler in the school and she had already been solicited for a six figure gift. The mother of (definitely a Generation X Mom) told me she agreed to make a “token gift” but was now concerned about the financial situation at the school that the administrator would feel compelled to ask a new family – one which had not yet experienced the promises of the administrator regarding the curricular and co-curricular programs for such a large gift. That experience gave birth to today’s posting.

Please don’t ever just assume that all of the students registered in the spring will be in their respective seat with the new fall semester. The point here is that the recruitment cycle does not end when a child is registered in the spring. To be successful, efforts need to focus between May and August to help each new family “justify the purchase decisions.”

For years, I have said that marketing simply stated is the right message, delivered to the right person at the right place and the right time.

Right Message

To help parents justify the purchase decision we must understand why a young mother chooses Catholic School. The research on why a parent chooses a Catholic School suggests that the decision is based on a perception of a rigorous academic program, an environment of safety, structure and discipline, religious values infused in the curriculum and added value benefit such as a before school, after school program, location of school, and multiple co curricular offerings. So then the right message to help them justify their purchase decision would focus on these aspects of your school. Certainly, you will want to avoid the pitfall of one school in the Midwest which the first communication with new parents after spring registration process was a tuition bill distributed by the business manager in June. I often recommend that all parents, but certainly those new to the school receive several communications between May and August that address how the school is expecting to best serve each student in the areas presented above. An example of such a strategy would be to hold a parent teacher conference the week before school begins to provide the parent the opportunity to educate the teacher about their child and his/her related needs.

Right Person

The research is clear that the mother is the primary decision maker with regard to where a child attends elementary school. So clearly, the key to effective marketing is communicating with mothers and between now and the fall the focus must be on helping the mothers of all students, but particularly those of new students to rationalize their purchase decision. Keep in mind that most of the mothers of preschool age children today are products of what sociologists have  labeled ”Generation X.”  In general Generation X Moms are between the ages of 25 and 40. Generation X’ers are characterized by a propensity for technology, skepticism to advertising claims and attraction to personal style rather than designer labels. Many Generation X mothers grew up as a latchkey child and in a divorced family. Therefore we find that time for their family and family values are very important to them and their approach to parenting is one of hovering, pragmatism, and traditionalism.Generation X mothers are better educated than any other women of previous generations. You can expect them to have an understanding of school achievement data and to utilize that data to evaluate the effectiveness of schools. Generation X mothers surpass their predecessors when it comes to technological advances; they are also embracing traditional values that might have been rejected by their parents. You can expect them to have a deeper commitment to spirituality and heightened concerns about the impact of the media on their children’s formation. Generation X mothers are more fiscally savvy than their predecessors. You can expect them to more closely analyze the “price-value” of any educational investment for their children.

Right Time

While the marketing efforts must be ongoing, particularly if one recognizes the research that the child is under the age of 2.5 when mom makes the elementary school choice. This article is attempting to call your attention to continuing to market the school to the parents who have already enrolled their child for the upcoming fall semester – help each mother “justify their purchase decision” with specific marketing/communication strategies and or events between May and August. Typically, I recommend at least three touches with the parents and one touch to the student by the respective teacher before the traditional “Back to School information is distributed.
Lastly, please keep in mind that the justification of the purchase decision must not end when the new school year commences. Our Catholic elementary schools are experiencing a student retention problem. It is interesting to note that many of the Generation X mothers are choosing to enroll their child but then withdrawing that student within two years. In many cases, this is not exclusively for financial reasons. In many cases they do not believe the school administration and or teachers understand them, their needs and expectations for the education of their children and perceive the value of the educational or religious experience does not justify their financial investment.

Who is “Steven Virgadamo”?

He is a gifted speaker and workshop leader with more than twenty five years of experience as a consultant, providing workshops, seminars and direct consulting services to Catholic Educational Institutions, parishes, religious communities, dioceses and boards of education. He has provided direct consultative guidance to hundreds of Catholic schools in almost half of the Dioceses of the United States in the areas of ownership/governance, administration, strategic planning, marketing, finances, and institutional advancement. Follow him on Twitter @svirgadamo.

Thank you for reading!

Steve Virgadamo

Steven Virgadamo asks: Can you not afford to consider a Private Elementary Education for your child?

steve-virgadamo-private-schoolWhat school will your child attend next year? Not long ago this question was asked only of parents of high school seniors and referred to a college. Today, this question is asked as early as a child’s entry into preschool. With myriad educational options to choose from – government and private alike – parents are facing important educational decision long before the college years. Attending  private schools with exemplary academic programs are not just for the wealthy anymore. Catholic schools provide a very reasonably priced education with exemplary results in student’s academic performance and focus not just on preparing students for college but also heaven.

When parents take time to compare the value to cost – Catholic schools often make it to the top of the myriad options.

Catholic School Graduates:

  • Lead the nation in post secondary achievement;
  • Pursue a rich variety of college majors;
  • Typically are admitted to the most prestigious Universities in the country;
  • Pursue healthy adult lives;
  • Place a higher value on family values and community service.

So, if asked what school your child will attend next year – What will be your response? Pursuing all options with or without a price tag – will help you find the right fit for your child and just possibly launch them on a path not just towards college but heaven as well.

Thank you for reading!

Steve Virgadamo