Private school fees increase back to pre-pandemic levels amid rising cost pressures

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Fee increases at private schools rose close to pre-pandemic levels in 2022 as schools face growing pressure on their budget. Our 2022 Edstart School Fees Report analysed fees at 538 non-government schools and found that school fees increased by an average of 2.90% this year, up from 1.05% in 2021.

Despite a decline in the average fee increase over the past four years, a number of factors are impacting schools' budgets causing them to revert back to higher fee increases this year. Over the past 2 years, many had minimised fee increases to provide fee relief to families impacted by COVID-19 disruptions, which has compounded the pressure on school budgets.

Pandemic puts pressure on school budgets

More than half of our Edstart partner schools have indicated to us that the costs of future-proofing have had the most significant impact on their budget. The transition to the “new normal” of living with the virus means schools will continue to incur extra costs and overheads such as additional teaching and support staff, increased cleaning and sanitation requirements, the need to procure large quantities of rapid antigen tests, and alterations to classrooms to improve air quality.

In addition, staff wages - which account for 79% of costs in schools according to the Somerset Education Financial Survey for Schools - have continued to rise above inflation due to labour shortages. Education industry expert John Somerset highlights that schools need adequate operating surpluses to ensure they can sustainably reinvest in crucial facilities and equipment, and also to service loans used to fund buildings and equipment that the students enjoy.

Average fee increase below inflation

Nationally, school fees have risen by an average of 2.90%, signifying a return in line with pre-pandemic levels. However, many schools are conscious of the financial impact on families and have kept increases below inflation, with over half of schools (56%) keeping their fee increases below the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

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States having slightly different experiences

Just as the pandemic has placed a spotlight on Australia’s federation with each state and territory having different experiences over the past two years, fee changes varied across the states.

The average fee increase in Queensland, NSW, Tasmania and the ACT were above 3% while South Australian schools had a much smaller average increase of 0.91%.

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The highest and median school fee also varies between states. Despite the highest fee in both Queensland and Western Australia topping $30,000 for the first time in 2022, they are still significantly lower than the highest fee schools in NSW and Victoria where they are both above $43,000.

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Key Trends in each state

NSW

School fees rose by 3.04% in 2022, up from last year’s increase of 1.74% in NSW. The state's regional schools increased fees at a lower rate (2.57%) than schools across Greater Sydney schools (3.26%).


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Victoria

Victorian school fees increased by 2.90% this year, after rising at the lowest rate in 2021 to provide fee relief for families impacted by the pandemic.

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Queensland

Queensland had the highest average school fee increases in the country at 3.56%, with the state’s regional schools increasing by an average of 4.07%.

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South Australia

South Australia recorded the lowest school fee increases in the country at an average of 0.91%, driven by a drop in fees in the Adelaide’s north and west, as well as by the state’s catholic schools.

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Western Australia

The average school fees in Western Australia rose by 2.79% this year, with the highest fee reaching over $30,000 for the first time in 2022.

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Download the full report

Our goal for the School Fees Report is to shine a light on private school fee trends on both national and state levels to help families better understand how they can manage these costs. To download the full report and see our full analysis visit edstart.com.au/report.

About Edstart
Edstart is a leading technology and financial services company providing funding and payment services for education. We offer fee management solutions to schools and flexible payment plans to parents to help make school fees easier to manage.

To see how we can help you, visit our main website.

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