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Australia: Private School Fees and Costs

How much do Australian Private Schools Cost?

Private school tuition fees vary considerably across Australia; however you may expect to pay anywhere between $18,000 and $41,000 for a Year 12 day student attending an established, well regarded metropolitan private school in 2020 - with boarding fees in addition. Most schools do, however, provide a discount of some form for families where multiple children attend the same school.

Fee Comparisons

To provide some additional detail, the table below provides an indication of school fees payable at some well-known colleges across Australia for Year 12 students. These are generally prestigious schools and their fees are at the very top end of the range - Catholic schools are usually appreciably less expensive. The table illustrates that fees charged in both Melbourne and Sydney are now basically comparable and remain ahead of other mainland state capitals, although the difference is narrowing.

Compulsory levies have been included in fee comparisons where identifiable and possible - "Technology" and "Tablet" levies are currently almost universal. It is now also becoming more common to see schools including "voluntary, tax deductible donations" within fee invoices - we haven't included them in comparisons but they need to be considered in any assessment where participation is expected.

The trend over recent years has been for the increase in private school fees to significantly exceed wage and wider inflation; with compound increases of over 5-6% being common among better known schools over the last decade, effectively doubling the cost of private education every ten years. That trend has abated over the last few years and fees should now plateau or reduce in real terms given the Covid 19 pandemic. Schools will however suffer because of entrenched high fixed costs and we expect significant consolidation over the next two years.

Regardless, school fees need to be very carefully considered within your financial planning if you are committed to the private school system - in many situations the cost of sending two children through an Australian private school may easily exceed AUD750K.

Note that there does seem to be a very clear and direct relationship between the absolute level of fees and the apparent unwillingness of some schools to make them public. We believe that a school's acceptance of any level of public funding should be contingent on a minimum level of transparency, including fees charged and their enrolment policies.

Selected Private School Fees (AUD) across Australia: Year 12, 2020

 

We also can't overstress the importance of ensuring, beyond the issue of school fees, that there is a "fit" between your child and the school chosen. For expat children bought up within secular, multi-racial International school systems some of the traditional Australian private schools, almost all of whom have close church affiliations, can present as very conservative environments.

Non- Residents: Private School Costs

The difference between private school fees for resident and a non-residents can be very substantial; the figures below are those applying in relation to an Anglican Church Grammar Year 12 boarder in 2020, and they are fairly representative:

 

Additional Costs

Apart from the cost of school fees, the cost of attendance at an Australian private school includes a range of potential additional costs.  A summarised, and by no means exhaustive, list of costs split into non-recurring and recurring costs appears below:

Non – Recurring

  • Application Fee – circa $100 to $500
  • Enrolment or Admission Fee – circa $500 to $2,500 and may be higher. For example, Hale and Christ Church, both located in Perth, currently (2019) charge non-refundable/non-tax deductible fees of $8,100 and $7,080 respectively upon the admission of a first child in Year 1 to 9.
  • Non Interest Bearing Loans – may increase as a child progresses through the school

Recurring

  • Building Levies – Compulsory or Voluntary
  • Compulsory purchase of IT equipment - laptops and tablets
  • International Baccalaureate levies - often $2000+ per annum
  • Additional subject costs eg. music, language, sports tuition
  • Special Programme costs
  • School Camps and Trips
  • Uniforms
  • Musical equipment hire
  • School bus services
  • Book charges
  • Pre and After-school care costs
  • Fundraising support (voluntary)

Some Comments on Funding Education Costs

1. Australian expats looking to fund future education costs in Australia need to seek specific financial advice - the "best" approach may be very dependent on your location. For example, for expats based in low or no tax regimes it is unlikely that Australian based investment solutions will be competitive with products or services available offshore.

2. Expats in Australia on temporary resident visas with children in private schools (in Australia or overseas) or resident in states which charge for access to public schooling should seek specific tax advice regarding the advantages of salary sacrificing these costs within their remuneration package.

3. We are unconvinced that the current Education or Scholarship funds available in Australia to fund primary, secondary and University schooling always represent "good value" from a cost or flexibility perspective. We would rather see this sort of funding integrated within a family's overall financial plan; unless participation is simply seen as a budgeting tool.