Fee growth at SA’s non-government schools faster than any other state

Fees across South Australia’s private secondary and R-12 schools have grown faster than in any other state, a new analysis shows, and at a greater rate in the regions than in Adelaide.

Education resources company Good Education Media has compiled fee details for The Advertiser from 2009 to 2016 — the last year for which there is a complete dataset.

Average fees per student for 14 schools more than doubled over the eight years. None of Adelaide’s high-fee independent schools, the ones that charge $25,000-plus for Year 12, feature in the top 50 schools for rate of fee growth. But for those, even small percentage rises translate to large dollar increases.

Fees for secondary and combined schools climbed 53 per cent from $4567 per student to $7003. Western Australia had the next highest rise of 50 per cent, and Tasmania the smallest at 39.7 per cent.

SA schools were, on average, considerably cheaper than those in Victoria ($9342 in 2016) and slightly cheaper than NSW and WA, but more expensive than Queensland and Tasmania.

In regional SA, per student fees for secondary and combined schools rose 58.1 per cent from $2718 to $4298, faster than the climb in Adelaide of 52.6 per cent from $5364 to $8187.

Across all Catholic schools — primary, secondary and combined — per student fees rose from $2346 to $3552, and for independent schools from $4293 to $6500. That was just over 50 per cent in both cases.

As schools typically charge more for higher year levels, the per student average fees for may be influenced by fluctuations in enrolments at different year levels, or schools changing the year levels they offer.

Catholic Year 10-12 school Marcellin Technical College at Christie Downs recorded the largest hike, in percentage terms, of 595 per cent to $4008, while St Patrick’s Technical College at Edinburgh North was fourth highest at 193 per cent.

Catholic Education SA said they had both been highly federally funded under the Australian Technical Colleges program from 2005-9. The program then ceased and they were integrated into the Catholic system under regular — much lower — state and Commonwealth funding.

Marcellin is now part of Cardijn College. Principal Paul Rijken said current fees were “competitive”, course offerings had risen 40 per cent, last year the school had 100 per cent SACE completion and 80 per cent of graduates went straight into full-time apprenticeships.

“The results speak for themselves,” he said. “We are making a significant contribution to (reducing) the skill shortage in South Australia.”

Three of Trinity College’s four R-10 campuses in Adelaide’s north (Gawler River, Blakeview and South) were in the top 10 overall for average fee rises per student. The different averages for each campus are the result of differing enrolments at various year levels, while the college stressed it charged the same fees to parents at all four.

The 231 per cent rise for Trinity College North to $6303 should be ignored because the MySchool data is not comparable over the 2009-16 period for that campus, as the 2016 data aggregates data across Trinity’s North and Senior campuses. Trinity said the $6303 figure was also hugely overstated because it incorrectly included a capital expenditure amount, without which it would be $4788.

Trinity’s highest tuition fee for its R-10 campuses this year is $6170 for Year 9 and 10. It was $5651 in 2016. Other charges and discounts also apply.

Trinity principal Nick Hately said the college had flattened its fee structure in the period covered by the Good Education Media analysis, so larger rises at the R-10 campuses were balanced by low rises for its senior campus. He said fee rises since then had been at “an all-time low” (2.7 per cent the past two years), while the college offered comparable facilities to the highest fee schools at much lower cost.

Catholic Education SA director Neil McGoran said SA Catholic school rises were “not significantly out of step with other states and, in some cases, are actually lower”, when considering higher levels of state government funding and capital grants in other states “over many years”.

“Generous fee remissions are given to many of our students,” he said.

Association of Independent Schools of SA chief executive Carolyn Granskalns said SA schools remained affordable compared to those in larger states except Queensland, which benefitted from higher levels of state government funding.

She said in the past few years rises had been lower because of growing federal and state funding, “contained” salary increases and schools being mindful of parents’ capacity to pay.

This article originally appeared in The Advertiser – Fee growth at SA’s private high and combined schools faster than any other state

Related article: Catholic school education more expensive in Adelaide than any other Australian city, Australian Scholarship Group says

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