Australia Today

Australian Private School Fees Crack $50,000 Per Year For the First Time

Australian private school fees have risen nationwide – for some schools as much as 20 per cent – despite being overfunded by governments.
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Australian private school fees have risen as much as 20 per cent for some year groups, despite government overfunding. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images.

The cost of attending Australia’s most expensive private school for a single year has tipped over $50,000 for the first time, despite government overfunding. 

Kambala Girls’ School in Sydney’s Rose Bay, overlooking the Harbour Bridge, is now not only the most expensive school in Sydney but Australia’s most expensive school with students in years 9 and 10 paying $51,385 this year – $45,200 in fees plus a compulsory levy of $6,185 for school camps. Students in years 11 and 12 will fork out slightly less in Kamala school fees due to a lower levy; each year will cost $49,825, up from $46,300 in 2023.

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Next priciest is Victoria’s Geelong Grammar School, once attended by Rupert Murdoch, Portia De Rossi, Missy Higgins and a young King Charles (for six months), which will charge $49,720 for year 12 day students – $3,700 higher than last year. 

The third most expensive is Sydney all-boys school Scots College, which will charge $48,320 for the honour of a prestigious year-12 education – an increase of just under $4,000.

Year 12 tuition will cost upwards of $40,000 in at least 20 independent schools around the country in 2024. Most of those institutions’ fees have risen between 5 and 9 per cent since 2023, but the biggest fee hike will be for kindergarten students at Kambala, who will now pay $31,400 per year – an increase of almost 20 per cent. 

These high prices are despite independent schools receiving millions of taxpayer dollars and more funding per student than public schools.

A report by the Blueprint Institute found, although all schools were feeling the pinch of high inflation, private school fees have risen more than 50 per cent in the decade to 2022 – more than double the rate of inflation over that period.

“The taxpayer spends $18 billion per year on funding private schools under the guise of providing ‘educational choice’ to families. But this justification becomes indefensible when that choice is removed unless families take on credit card debt or remortgage their homes to pay for school,” Blueprint CEO David Cross said in the report.

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In 2019-20, the Federal Government funded public schools $3,246 per student while the states funded $11,935, for a total of $15,181 per student. But the Commonwealth contributed $10,211 to private schools per student and the states gave $2,978, totalling $13,189 per student, despite their hefty school fees.

More than 20 private schools in NSW alone were overfunded by more than $1 million in 2020, while all Australian public schools are still considered underfunded when measured by the Schooling Resource Standard — an estimate of how much public funding a school requires to meet its students’ educational needs. 

A 2022 report commissioned by the NSW Teachers Federation found the NSW Government overfunded private schools in NSW by almost $850 million but underfunded public schools by $2 billion.

According to the SRS, all public schools were funded 92.2 per cent in 2023, but private schools were funded 105.17 per cent. 

But agreements made in 2018 will see independent school overfunding addressed and gradually wound back by 2029, so some schools have attributed rising fees to a need to plug that gap.  

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In a letter to parents seen by the Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney’s Waverley College told families it was predicting a $27 million drop in government funding over the decade.

“It is a significant challenge to balance affordability and the high-quality educational offerings for which Waverley is known,” the letter wrote.

In Victoria, a new state payroll tax on independent schools who get more than $15,000 per student in government funding will be subject to more tax, which some have said will need to be made up by school fees. 

Melbourne’s Caulfield Grammar increased its fees by 7 per cent to $40,543 in 2024, which it told parents was due to the new tax.

“The imposition of the payroll tax on Caulfield Grammar School represents an unparalleled and punitive change in the Victorian government’s support of independent education,” the letter sent in late 2023 said.

“The impact of the new payroll tax fundamentally transforms Caulfield Grammar School into a profit centre for the Victorian state government.”

So what are private schools doing with all that money? They’re spending it on new facilities and programs – anything they can.

Kambala’s gross revenue in 2021 was $41 million, but it spent $42 million. Salaries allowances came to $28 million and non-salary expenses, like new infrastructure and maintenance, totalled $13 million. 

Aleksandra Bliszczyk is the Deputy Editor of VICE Australia. Follow her on Instagram.

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