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200 private schools have closed in Michigan in the last decade

Private schools in Michigan are disappearing, closing their doors at a rate of about two per month over the last decade. 

Religious schools make up the majority, but nonreligious schools, preschools, Montessori schools and others have closed as well. In all, more than 200 private schools have closed since 2009, according to data from the Michigan’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, which represents almost 400 Catholic, Lutheran and Christian schools across the state.

Last year, about 112,000 Michigan students attended private schools, a 14% decrease from the 130,000 students in private schools a decade earlier.

State data show that among the private school closures of the past decade are 60 unaffiliated religious schools, 46 Catholic schools, 19 Baptist schools, 16 Missouri Synod Lutheran Schools, 16 Christian schools and 11 Seventh-day Adventist schools. Another 37 nonreligious private schools also have closed.

Grieving process

Private school tuition can range from a few hundred dollars to more than $10,000 per year, depending on how much support the school gets from outside sources such as a church or a foundation.

Operators of schools forced to close tell similar stories of rising costs, fewer resources and fewer students. They also relate the anguish that accompanies the decision to close.

“It took an emotional toll on the congregation,” said Pastor Mark Hetzner of St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Eastpointe, which closed its school in 2015. “That was the end of 130 years of Christian education on the east side of Detroit. You’re going though a whole grieving process as a congregation.”