WASHINGTON — With enrollment up 50 percent over the past five years, The Catholic University of America in Washington is spinning off its current economics and business curriculum from its College of Arts and Sciences and fashioning a new business school with the idea of infusing ethics into all course offerings.

This year’s business and economics graduates will still receive degrees from the School of Arts and Sciences, but next year’s graduates will receive their degrees from the new College of Business and Economics, the university’s 13th school.

The action to create a new school was taken in a December vote by the university’s board of trustees, following three years of evaluating and planning. The new school’s creation took effect Jan. 1, and it was announced Jan. 8.

Enrollment in business courses has jumped from 300 to 450 since 2008, according to Andrew V. Abela, an associate professor of marketing who is currently chair of the university’s Department of Business and Economics and will slide over to the new business school.

“We have very small classes, and we want to keep it that way,” Abela, a native of Malta, told Catholic News Service in a Jan. 8 interview at Catholic University.

“There’s something about the program that the students find appealing,” Abela said. He believes it is the correlation of societal institutions with the economy and the application of natural law within the curriculum.

In Abela’s view, if the society is not moral, the economy will not act morally either, and he sees the family unit as key to it all. “Having a large family is required to see economic growth,” he said.

While he applies that principle to the U.S. economy, Abela said it fits the situation as well in Europe, which has seen a series of debt crises in European Union member nations.

“Absolutely, absolutely. It’s 10 times more,” Abela said, referring to the impact of family on the economy. “The decline of the family (in Europe) is so much greater” than in the United States, he added.

Since the U.S. economy took a tumble in 2008, business colleges have offered ethics courses because “they had to,” Abela said. But at Catholic University, ethics is a part of every course in the program, he added.

Abela had worked in advertising, marketing and consulting before joining the Catholic University faculty 10 years ago. “I found that whenever I was teaching, I was happiest,” he said.

The new business school will carry over degree programs it offered as a department.

In addition to undergraduate degrees in accounting, economics, international business and business administration, the school offers graduate programs. One is in accounting. Another is an integral economic development management program, which focuses on management skills and the role of family, community and societal institutions in development.

A third graduate degree is a master of science in business analysis. Abela described it as a “crash course” in business for liberal arts bachelor’s degree graduates “who get married and want to buy a house and start a family, and need to get a job … unless they want to be a history teacher.”

The program uses CEOs as mentors; among them are Bill Pulte, the father of 14 who started Pulte Homes, and John Abbate, who owns 25 McDonald’s franchises in California.

The school also offers an interdisciplinary graduate program in international political economics.