Louis DiCesari's 13-year-old granddaughter was so excited about attending Archbishop Carroll High School next year that he agreed to help with the $7,300 tuition and $1,845 school fee.
But he found out a few weeks ago that tuition for incoming freshmen was skyrocketing at the Main Line school, increasing $2,200. That brings next year's total to $11,345, with the school fee - an increase of nearly 25 percent - thousands more than any other school in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's system is charging currently.
DiCesari, who mailed in a $200 deposit, said the girl's father could not afford the costly high school, having already borne the cost of keeping his daughter in a Catholic elementary school.
"He's exhausted all of his savings," said DiCesari, 63, of Roxborough.
Tuition at the archdiocese's other 16 high schools is far less than Carroll's, from $6,800 to $7,800 along with substantial fees, with non-Catholic students paying about $1,000 extra. The rates went up about 5 percent last year.
Chris Mominey, the archdiocesan secretary for education, declined to be interviewed, but wrote in an email that it was too early to know how much it will cost to attend Catholic high schools next year.
Catholic teachers' union president Rita Schwartz said families typically are notified in January.
Mominey said the $2,200 increase in tuition at Carroll, which he called the "Tuition Lock Program," was unique. School officials have been studying the new pricing system and surveying the community for two years, he said, and were ready to make an announcement about the program.
While the 1,100-student school, off Lancaster Avenue near SEPTA'S Radnor station, stands to cost substantially more than any other archdiocesan school, the price still is only about half that of St. Joseph's Preparatory in Philadelphia, a private school operated by Jesuits.
Carroll president Francis E. Fox, who also declined to be interviewed, wrote in an email that the decision to raise tuition was "based on our vastly improved value proposition."
The school has 275 applicants for next year with a waiting list for the third year in a row, he said, an indicator "that our model works."
He also said that the school would continue to support families that need financial help.
Neither Mominey nor Fox would disclose the amount Carroll freshmen will pay next year, but tuition officer Lisa Ritter told DiCesari in an email that the cost would be $9,500, which would be locked in for a student's four years at the school. But the fee will remain $1,845 for next year only.
The new tuition is not yet on the website.
Mominey said any plans to raise tuitions by other archdiocesan schools would be "communicated in a timely manner to parents and students alike."
But DiCesari, a widower with three grandchildren who works part time as a clerk at Acme Markets, said that given the size of the increase, Carroll waited too long to inform the school community. He said he found out only after a Carroll representative visited his daughter's elementary school a few weeks ago.
Students are looking at high schools in September and making their decisions early in the school year, he said.
"Why didn't they put this out earlier?" he said. "They're keeping it under the radar."
The new tuition has not yet been posted on the school's website.
Raising tuition $2,200 is "a game-changer" for a lot of people, DiCesari said. "The whole thing hasn't been handled well."
He said his granddaughter is OK with not going to Carroll and is considering other Catholic schools, including Bishop McDevitt
"A couple of months ago, the pope was here talking about the less fortunate," he said. "And Fox is trying to make [Carroll] an elitist school."