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South Australian parents sending their children to private schools this year can expect to pay an extra $355 with fees rising by an average of 5.5 per cent. By Antonia Maiolo

Parents hit by fee increases

DATE: 14 February 2013
Across the state the independent school sector has raised fees by between 3 and 10.5 per cent, leaving parents a further $6.83 out of pocket per week.
According to the Association of Independent Schools of SA (AISSA) parents are the primary source of funding for many independent schools. In some schools, parents provide as much as 85 per cent of school revenue.
Despite this, AISSA chief executive Garry Le Duff said the fee rises were consistent with past years and rising costs common to all schools.
A survey of member schools by AISSA showed the increases were due to the rising costs of providing education. The main drivers of costs going up were: teacher salaries and training, utilities, the introduction of a new curriculum, compliance requirements and up-dating information technology.
Le Duff said the 5.5 per cent increase in fees is “reasonable” given the context and increase in key cost drivers.
“The reality is that schools put up fees so that they can provide a good service, this is not about profit-making,” Le Duff said.
He said schools require adequate resources to provide a greater breadth of education programs as well as support services for students. The extent of a fee rise at a school depended on its current level of development and strategic expenditure.
There is also a lot of pressure for schools to demonstrate their long-term financial viability, particularly as school boards within the independent sector increasingly undertaking planning for future building infrastructure.
Le Duff said a couple of banks have approached him wanting to know more about the future funding arrangements in schools because they are putting in applications for loans.
“They want to know what my prediction is of where funding is going to go, so banks are being more scrutinising around the future viability of schools.”
Le Duff said the survey also showed the majority of independent schools expect to increase or maintain stable enrolments this year and in the long-term. He said many schools are, in fact, at their enrolment capacity.
Data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that inflation in the education sector increased by 6.1 per cent over the 12 months to the September quarter 2012, compared with the CPI increase of 2 per cent.
The increase in the cost of secondary education was 7.7 per cent.
Catholic Education South Australia director Paul Sharkey said it is clear non-government schools in the state are facing significant cost increases.
“As fees are a major source of their income they are a significant contributor to meeting increased costs and retaining educational services that families expect,” Sharkey said.
He said these expectations involve schools meeting the individual needs of children, particularly for those students with disabilities, making more technological resources available and providing contemporary facilities.
Sharkey said fee increases can impact upon enrolment statistics if parents do not approach the school with their concerns about their ability to pay.
“Catholic schools very much try to work with families who are in real financial need to ensure their children are able to access a Catholic education.”
Private school fees have increased around Australia, with fees going up by about 5.5 per cent in NSW. Other states had similar increases.

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