A Qualitative Phenomenological Study of Declining Enrollment Trends in Private Christian Schools

Date
2022-04-30
Authors
Binkley, Amanda
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Abstract The problem was the enrollment decline in private Christian schools in the United States, particularly in the National Christian School Association (NCSA). The identified gap in the literature was the absence of various perspectives and experiences of stakeholder groups (e.g., parents, teachers, and administrators) on the problem of enrollment decline in private Christian schools. The purpose of this study was to explore stakeholder perceptions concerning why private Christian school enrollment has declined, specifically at NCSA member schools. The theoretical framework for the study drew from Friedman’s school choice theory and transformational leadership theory. The key question driving the study focused on the perceptions of various stakeholders concerning the phenomenon of declining Christian school enrollment. The research design for the research study was qualitative phenomenology. Data were collected via 19 questionnaires and 11 in-depth follow-up interviews. Open and axial coding was used to identify deductive and inductive themes in the data. Participant data revealed the up-and-down nature of Christian school enrollment, as opposed to consistent decline. Results of the study revealed church affiliation negatively influenced enrollment trends, whereas broad values had a positive influence. Results revealed a school’s value proposition is most influenced by school reputation, tuition rate, clientele, extracurriculars, and academics. Increased school choice options were reported to harm private Christian school enrollment. Finally, the COVID-19 global pandemic has led to a resurgence in positive enrollment trends. Recommendations for future study include the long-term impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic on private Christian school enrollment. Keywords: private Christian school, enrollment, phenomenology, Friedman’s school choice theory, transformational leadership theory, Christian mission, parent priorities, value proposition, COVID-19
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