Externado San José was considered for many years a school for the elites of El Salvador. However, after the Second Vatican Council and the Episcopal Conference of Medellin in the 1960s, the Jesuits and staff administrating the school turned their attention to the country's poor. Therefore they started a system of differentiated quotas, where the students' families were allowed to pay tuitions that corresponded to their level of income. This gradually brought down the school's reputation as an elitist institution. At the same time, the Christian Formation courses started including hints of Liberation Theology and the idea that the school should form men and women devoted to serving their society, something that implied transforming the deep social differences in El Salvador. Because of this, many high class families withdrew their children from the school.
Externado San José still operates with this system of differentiated quotas and it is open for students from the both sexes. Many of the graduates of this –school have become prominent Salvadorans, for example: ex-president Armando Calderón Sol, the internationally acclaimed poet Roque Dalton and the journalist and politician Mauricio Funes.