In a trend intensified by growing economic troubles, declining enrollment in Catholic schools across the nation is forcing many of those schools to close. Compared to 10 years ago, Catholic school enrollments have plummeted by nearly 20 percent. From New York City to Sacramento, Calif., Catholic schools today are facing the double peril of rising costs and falling revenues.

The total number of students enrolled in U.S. Catholic schools for the 2008-09 school year was 2,192,531, according to data from the National Catholic Educational Association. But the decline has been steady. In the 1998-99 school year, enrollment was 2.6 million, and it was 2.4...

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