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The real cost of private education

The real cost of private education

It’s not as bad as you’ve probably heard!

Does the thought of paying for a private school education cause you unspeakable anxiety? You’re not alone.

You’ve probably read reports constantly circulated in the media suggesting that 13 years of private education could set you back more than $500,000. This might be true for some of the more prestigious schools in the ‘leafy’ suburbs but certainly isn’t the case for all private schools nationally. This figure puts private education completely out of reach for the majority of Australian families but there are more affordable options available.

The cost of a private education varies widely between schools and states. Evidence of this fluctuation can be seen across the vacancies currently available on School Places which range from $4,300 to $37,500 per year. In fact the average private school tuition fee listed on School Places is $12,400 a year, or $1,000 a month.

So, if you're feeling more at ease with the affordability of a private school and have put them on your list of schools to consider, you should look into the types of schools available and any additional expenses that you might be expected to pay.

The different types of schools

There are three main education providers in Australia; Government (public schools), Catholic Education and the Independent schools sector. Generally speaking, you’ll find Catholic schools at the lower end of the fee scale, and non-denominational Independent schools at the higher end. A quick search on in the Melbourne region reveals just how varied tuition fees can be, even within a 30km radius. A search for a prep vacancy in 2016 brings up options varying from $6,000 through to $13,000, and that’s even before the discount of between 15-25% has been applied.

Each school is different and your research will reveal varying levels of facilities, subjects offered, locations, public transport accessibility, extracurricular activities and student to teacher ratios.

Price is really not a true reflection of whether a school is ‘better’ than other schools, as what suits one individual child will not necessarily be a good fit for others.

As well as tuition, what other costs may apply?

In addition to the yearly tuition, many private schools require compulsory payment of an IT or tablet levy (around $800 annually), application fees (between $50 and $200) plus enrolment fees ($500 to $2,500) which, depending on the school, can be credited towards tuition fees. It is recommended that you confirm the tuition and additional fees during the enrolment process.

You’ll also need to consider the cost of uniforms, text books and any excursions or camps that your child would be expected to attend. Uniforms and text books can often be purchased second hand or sold back to the uniform shop when leaving the school. You'll find more tips on making private school fees affordable here

Most schools will offer various payment options to assist you with your family budget, such as Queensland’s Blackheath and Thornburgh College and Melbourne’s Oakleigh Grammar which both provide parents with the option of weekly, fortnightly, monthly or quarterly payment terms with direct debit options.

When narrowing down your options, firstly work out what your family can afford and then consider schools that fall under that limit – and be sure to add a buffer to cover incidental expenses and excursions.