Why are parents using their precious savings to keep kids in private schools?

Posted in School.

Kate Browne is managing editor at finder.com.au. Kate spoke to Babyology podcast Feed Play Love about the precarious financial position many families are putting themselves in to ensure their children are privately educated.

The push for private education

Australians are sending their children to private schools at a higher rate than many other western countries, but it’s not because they are more able to afford it, Kate says.

In fact, the average cost of a private school education is a whopping $35,000 per year, but many fees come in way above that annually. It’s leaving many families stretched way too thin.

Listen to finder.com.au’s Kate Browne on Feed Play Love:

For more of finder.com.au’s research on private schools, check out their website.

“We did a survey about this,” Kate says. “We looked at a nationally representative group of parents with children under 12. Three hundred and sixty seven thousand of those families said they can’t afford to pay for these fees from their disposable income. More than three percent said they’re relying on financial support from family or a personal loan.”

Dipping into savings, mortgaging the house

And that’s only at the primary school level. What happens when kids move on to high school is anyone’s guess. We do know that some families – around two percent – are relying on credit cards to keep their kids in private education. One percent of families are mortgaging their homes to pay these school fees.

“The need to pay top dollar is causing sort of 1 in 4 parents to dip into their savings,” Kate says.

In this quest for what some see as a better quality education – and Kate stressed that she is not one of those somebodies – families are forgoing savings and security to ensure the fees are paid. 

“There’s always those wildcards that come in,” she observes. “You might have a medical emergency … you could lose your job. You can have a health crisis. So you know it puts you in a very vulnerable situation if you’re digging into your savings.”

Private school kids

Too much pressure?

But it’s not just security that can be put at risk by this ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ strategy. Kids can get caught up in their parents dreams for them, however well-intentioned.

“You could actually put a lot of strain and pressure on the child knowing that that whole family is kind of stretched to the limits for their education and the pressure to perform,” Kate warns.

So if you’re considering a private education for your child, the trick is to plan well ahead. Kate says that a public school education from kindergarten to year 12 will cost around $69,000 (based on Sydney projections and figures). And the cost of a Sydney private school for your child’s school life? $543,000.

Kate says that researching the best public schools in your city can prove a canny strategy. In fact, it can be cheaper to sell your home and move and buy another home in an area with a more desirable public school than to pay private school fees.

  More great Feed Play Love episodes:

Find more great stories and expert advice in the Feed Play Love podcast. Available in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.


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