Catholic vs. Public Education

November 27, 2020

Both Catholic schools and public schools seek to educate students and prepare them for their academic and professional careers. There are several main differences between public and Catholic schools.

1. Faith-based education

Catholic schools provide a faith-based education to students. This does not mean that all students must be Catholic to attend Catholic school—all faiths and creeds are welcome. In fact, in Western Washington, 30% of enrolled students are not Catholic. However, all students enrolled in Catholic school participate in Catholic religion classes and attend Catholic Mass as part of their educational experience. Catholic schools believe that including this faith-based element in academic life produces more mindful students who gain a foundational understanding of living in service to others.

2. Service

Service is an integral part of Catholic school culture. Students of all age levels are asked to complete service projects, from canned food and clothing drives to site visits at nursing homes and shelters. Catholic schools believe that service projects instill important qualities in students—including social responsibility, leadership, and compassion. Service is a large part of the Catholic identity and plays an important role in all Catholic schools from grade school through college.

3. Academics

Statistics show that Catholic schools excel in the academic arena. Data from the National Center for Educational Statistics published in 2021 found that Catholic grade school students outperformed public school students in math, science, and reading.

Catholic schools immerse students in rigorous academics from a young age, preparing them for high school and beyond. Nationwide, Catholic schools boast a 99% high school graduation rate, with 85% of high school graduates continuing on to four-year college after graduation.

4. Community

Catholic schools engender a strong sense of community. Many schools require parents to fulfill a certain number of service hours at school throughout the school year, keeping them involved in their child’s education. This also helps build a sense of community between the families, the school, and the students. Parents create relationships with the teachers and with each other, meaning there is always someone to provide help and encouragement if needed. Students and families alike thrive in this environment—it’s one of the big reasons families choose Catholic schools in the first place!

5. Tuition and admissions

Like all private schools, Catholic schools charge tuition to enrolled students. However, Catholic schools tend to have the lowest tuition rates among private schools. In 2021, the average tuition rate for private elementary schools was $7,630. For Catholic schools, the average tuition rate was only $4,840.

Furthermore, Catholic schools understand that not every family can afford to pay the full tuition rate. Tuition assistance programs offered by the schools or through nonprofits like the Fulcrum Foundation help families afford the cost of tuition. Fulcrum’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) serves families across Western Washington in 72 Catholic schools.

For more information about Fulcrum’s tuition assistance programs, visit

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