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Philadelphia Catholic Schools To Increase Tuition by 17.8%

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The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, faced with declining enrollment and mounting deficits in its secondary-school system, plans to impose the largest-ever increase in tuition for its 26 high schools.

Tuition for the next school year will increase by 17.8 percent, from $1,450 to $1,700, for one child, and to $3,400 for two or more children. The increase comes after a $195 hike last year.

In addition, officials have announced a fundamental change in the way local parishes will contribute to secondary schools. Until now, each parish has made a flat contribution for each student from its jurisdiction who attended an archdiocesan high school. That figure was $345 this year.

The fees have fallen heavily on inner-city parishes, where a greater percentage of students than in outlying areas goes on to archdiocesan high schools, said Robert H. Palestini, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese. Under the new system, he said, all 303 parishes will contribute "equitably."

"Now we will go to a strict assessment that will have nothing to do with the number of students in high school, but with the number of families in the parish and the ability of the parish to pay," Mr. Palestini said.

Based on the new plan for parish contributions, the archdiocese will increase its subsidy to the high schools from $8.5 million to $10.5 million next year, officials said.

Archbishop Anthony J. Bevilacqua announced the school-financing changes this month.

The archdiocese enrolls 29,539 students in its 26 high schools. Another 15 Catholic high schools within its boundaries operate independently. As in other Catholic dioceses across the nation, the Philadelphia system has been hit by declining enrollment over the past 20 years.

Officials predict that high-school enrollment will decrease to 28,164 next year, mostly because of a demographic decline in that age group.

But the tuition increase could be a factor as well. This year, after the $195 increase, 300 fewer 8th graders graduating from Catholic schools enrolled in archdiocesan high schools.

The latest increase was needed, officials said, to help offset a $6-million deficit for the high schools last year, and a projected $5-million shortfall this year.

Even with the hike, a deficit of $4.7 million is projected for the 1990-91 school year, Mr. Palestini said.

The archdiocese plans to increase financial aid to help needy families meet the higher tuition.

It will also continue to seek community and corporate support. Some $40 million has been raised in recent years by a local business coalition, Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools.

In a statement, Archbishop Bevilacqua said a comprehensive fund-raising effort was in the planning stages.

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