In 2016, parents can expect to pay around half a million dollars for private school fees from day one in primary school through to the end of high school.
Public school education is significantly cheaper but it’s not free. How much you’ll be out of pocket depends on the state you live in. If you’re a family living in Sydney then you’ll be paying top dollar, at around $70,000 per child. The least expensive state for schooling is the Northern Territory, which comes in at around $48,000 per child.
If you have three or more kids, you’re looking at the cost of a small house just to educate them! And the recent push to extend the 10 percent GST to school fees may see fees rise even higher.
What are you paying for?
These figures cover everything from tuition fees and levies (including fundraising contributions), uniforms, school bags and, materials needed for each of the subjects your child studies (for example, science lab resources, computer costs, art materials). It also includes the extra costs like school excursions, and other extracurricular activities.
What schools do with the money
School fees are the income a school earns, and more than 80 percent of it is tied up in teachers’ salaries. As teacher salaries increase, so do school fees. Another major cost for schools now is technology. This includes laptops and other devices, as well as the infrastructure and maintenance. There are also consistent changes to the curriculum, which add to school’s expenses, for example the push for smaller classes, more subjects for students to select from in high school, the demand for children to learn a language in primary school, and the recent initiative for teachers to teach anti-terrorism activities. While all these activities are important, in budgetary terms, they all add to school expenses.
Tips for managing the costs of education
The Government’s School Kids Bonus has helped parents with schooling costs, however legislation has now passed to end this scheme. The final payment will be in July 2016. A replacement has not been announced. So, more than ever it’s important for parents to plan and manage the costs of their kids’ education. There are a few options for parents:
Many private schools offer a small number of academic scholarships per year, often for children beginning high school. These scholarships are a win for parents because they offer between 25 percent and 100 percent off the entire cost of school fees. While most scholarships are open to all students, the most likely recipients are generally students who demonstrate outstanding academic merit or financial need.
Savings plans for education
Many families make detailed budgetary plans to save for the costs of schools. Apart from traditional savings accounts and more complex investments like shares and bonds, there are specific education funds set up to help you put money aside for your child’s education. These are called scholarship funds and are offered by the below friendly societies:
The Moneysmart website established by Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) is a great, easy to read resource to find out more about these funds and what to look for when comparing them.
Difficulty paying school fees
Sometimes things don’t go according to plan and you might have difficulty paying school fees. Depending on your circumstances if you don’t pay them then the school may take you to court. If you are experiencing short-term difficulty paying school fees you can:
When I was a teacher in schools I saw each of these options negotiated between parents and the school. Make sure, however, you obtain written confirmation from the school about any change to your agreement regarding the payment of school expenses.