Catholic families may start to have a problem with Catholic education: its price. According to an article in Spero News, a conservative Catholic blog:

Citing new U.S. Department of Education data on the nation’s most expensive colleges, The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) is urging Catholic families to consider the true value of higher education and to choose faithfully Catholic colleges.

“In a bad economy, Catholic families have to be particularly conscious of where their money is going,” said CNS President Patrick J. Reilly. “A Catholic college is the best choice for nurturing a student’s Catholic faith and preparing ethical, intelligent leaders to rise above our increasingly secular culture. But a Catholic education is only worth the price if it is faithfully Catholic.”

In fact, very few Catholic colleges do a particularly good job turning out devout Catholics, no matter how “faithfully Catholic” the colleges may be. A 2003 analysis by CNS indicated that students who graduate from Catholic colleges are “predominantly pro-abortion, approve of homosexual ‘marriage,’ and only occasionally pray or attend religious services. Nine percent of Catholic students abandon their faith before graduation.”

But historically families weren’t primarily interested in sending their children to Catholic colleges in order to “prepare ethical, intelligent leaders to rise above our increasingly secular culture.” No, they sent their children to Catholic colleges because such schools used to be primarily staffed by members of religious orders; they were cheap. If CNS really wants to keep America’s Catholic families sending their children to religiously affiliated schools, its got to do more than talk about the ambiguous benefits of “sincere commitments to authentic Catholic teaching.”

In a down economy Catholic colleges must find ways to make themselves affordable to Catholic families again. Because if families can’t afford the schools, they just won’t send their kids there, no matter how great CNS says the schools are for their faith.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer