Australia’s luxury education sector is feeling the pinch of high inflation, as some of the nation’s most elite schools announce they are raising their prices despite being overfunded by millions of taxpayer dollars.
2023 fee notices from private schools around the country dropped this week, and a single year of secondary education at Australia’s three most expensive institutions tipped over $45,000 for the first time.
Completing year 12 at Sydney all-girls’ school Kambala, in Rose Bay, will cost $46,300 in 2023 — a 7 per cent hike on last year’s fees — according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Next is Victoria’s Geelong Grammar School, once attended by Rupert Murdoch, Portia De Rossi, Missy Higgins and a young Prince Charles (for six months), which will charge $46,020 for year 12 day students.
Sydney’s all-girls SCEGGS Darlinghurst, and all-boys Scots College, will charge $45,044 and $44,600 respectively for the honour of their prestigious educations. Both are up 5 per cent on 2022.
So if they’re all raising their rates anyway, what are your tax dollars paying for?
“Fees are set to a level to meet operating expenses and contribute towards enhancing the experiences and facilities for students and staff,” Kambala school council president Ainslie van Onselen wrote in a letter to parents this week. “We will continue to make a priority the attraction, retention and development of the best staff possible.”
The letter, seen by the SMH, also revealed Kambala was planning to hire a researcher from Harvard Graduate School of Education to be its “academic in residence” to “ensure academic excellence” at the school.
Another Sydney private school, Ascham, which will raise its fees 4 per cent this year, cited fair remuneration for staff as the reason.
Ascham’s Council of Governors’ chair, Nell Anderson, told parents the “employment market in the education sector tightened significantly” in 2022, according to the SMH.
Meanwhile, the Australian government continues to give private schools more money for some reason.
In 2019-20, the Federal Government spent $3,246 per public school student and the states paid $11,935, for a total of $15,181. But it forked out $10,211 for each private school student, while the states gave $2,978, a total of $13,189.
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.
In fact, government funding for Australian private schools rose at five times the rate of public school funding in the last decade, according to data published in February 2022. Funding per private school student increased 34 per cent in 10 years — but rose just 5 per cent for public school students.
So what are private schools doing with all that money? Well, they’re not spending it on enough consent education. But they are spending it somewhere, apparently.
Kambala, which was founded in 1887 and overlooks the Sydney Harbour Bridge, has about 1000 students, all paying tuition fees somewhere between $22,000 and $46,000 a year. Averaged out, that equals an annual intake of more than $30 million.
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.
Let’s hope all the staff are on six figures and that Harvard researcher comes in handy.
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