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School fees only half the cost of a primary education

Independent school education in NSW was 19 per cent higher than the national average of $300,000.

The cost in Melbourne would be $307,500, Canberra $275,500, Adelaide $273,400, Brisbane $262,530, and Perth $213,900. Costs in regional areas are estimated to be considerably less.

Increasing burden

While independent school fees in Sydney average around $8920 – significantly lower than the most expensive schools which are charging fees of up to $46,000 – the index found the average cost of technology and electrical devices in Sydney was $2700, outside tuition $1767, musical instruments $818 and school uniforms $500.

Out-of-pocket expenses were much higher for independent schools than for Catholic and public schools.

The new cost of education index confirmed that school fee hikes had slowed over the past two years after a decade of increases at double the rate of inflation.

“School fees, outside tuition, school campus, transport, uniforms, electronic devices and sports equipment are demanding a far greater share of the family budget than in the past,” Ms Hill said.

“More than ever the costs associated with education are placing more of a burden on Australian families who are already stretched by the spiraling cost of living and rising interest rates.”

Ms Hill said most independent schools were increasing fees for 2023 by between 3-5 per cent, with a few outliers hiking fees by as much as 10 per cent.

“With inflation really escalating, I’m not sure many parents will have the appetite to stomach 6 and 7 per cent rises like we have seen in the past,” she said.

However, once a child is enrolled in an independent school, it can be extremely hard to go to another, cheaper one, Ms Hill said.

“Parents will go to extremes to keep their children in an independent school once they have started. While cost is the biggest factor in determining which school your child will go to, once that decision has been made it is very unlikely parents will remove their children for cost reasons.”

Despite the massive cost burden on families, nearly 50 per cent of secondary students are now enrolled in non-government schools, with parents resorting to a range of strategies to pay for it, including redrawing on their mortgages, using credit card debt and asking extended family members, usually grandparents, to pitch in.

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