In 2003–04, about 6 percent of rural students were enrolled in private schools, over half of them in non-Catholic, religious schools. In contrast, 11 percent of students nationally were enrolled in private schools, the largest percentage of whom (41 percent) were enrolled in Catholic schools.
In 2003–04, some 34,700 private schools across the United States enrolled 6.1 million elementary and secondary students (or 11 percent of all students) (tables 1.6a and 1.6b). In rural areas, 6,700 private schools enrolled 622,000 prekindergarten through 12th-grade students (or 6 percent of all rural students). For the purposes of this analysis, private schools are categorized as Catholic; non-Catholic religious; and nonsectarian schools.
In cities, suburban areas, and towns, the largest percentage of private school students were enrolled in Catholic schools (42–48 percent), followed by non-Catholic religious schools (33–39 percent), and then nonsectarian schools (13–23 percent) (figure 1.6). In rural areas, however, 55 percent of private school students attended non-Catholic religious schools, compared with 27 percent attending nonsectarian schools and 18 percent attending Catholic schools. Rural areas were the only locale where Catholic schools did not enroll the largest proportion of private school students.