Archdiocesan high schools

For the first time in history, the archdiocesan high schools are now operating without a subsidy from either the Archdiocese or the parish, parents and guardians were informed in a Jan. 31 letter from Dr. Richard McCarron, Secretary for Catholic Education.

At that time it was also announced next year’s tuition charge will increase from $5,600 to $5,850 next fall.

Supplemental tuition, which applies only to non-Catholic students, out-of-diocese students and students from other Catholic rites will increase by $50 to $1,200.

“Many parishes are operating at a deficit and are indebted to the Archdiocese in a significant way,” Dr. McCarron wrote. “In June 2011, the Archdiocesan Finance Council determined that the high schools would no longer receive any financial support from the Archdiocese due to serious financial challenges the Archdiocese itself faces.”

Parish funding of Catholic high schools can be traced back to the foundation of St. Matthew Parochial High School in Conshohocken in 1866, which was the forerunner of what became the now closed Kennedy-Kenrick High School. The first true archdiocesan high school, Roman Catholic High School which was founded in 1890, in its early years was not supported by parishes, the Archdiocese or tuition but funded by the Cahill Trust.

All other archdiocesan high schools from their beginning relied almost entirely on parish per- pupil contributions until the early 1970s when rising costs forced the Archdiocese to impose a modest tuition, which increased over the years.

Most recently, the direct per-pupil parish contribution to the high schools based on the number of students they had attending was eliminated and replaced by a contribution by the Archdiocese to the schools. This was funded through the parish assessment by the Archdiocese, which is a percentage of parish income. In effect, this decreased the burden on poorer parishes, because their income is less.

It was in 1989 or 1990 when the transition began from a per-pupil tax to one based on parish income, and that was phased in over several years, explained David J. Magee, director of the archdiocesan Office for Educational Financial Services.

“There was a separate high school assessment until 1994 when the assessments were combined and from that point the high schools received a share of the overall amount billed to the parishes,” he said.

According to the Blue Ribbon report, by 2010 the parish assessments were not a major factor in the funding of the high schools. That year tuition and fees accounted for 78 percent of revenue; the parish assessment accounted for 3 percent.

The rest was mostly received through contributions and donations, especially from foundations and alumni, fund raising, activities including athletics, and other revenue such as investment income.