School Fees

School Fees

Thursday, 18 October 2018  | Gerry - Administration Manager

Since I wrote about school funding in Term 3 some things have changed: we have a new Prime Minister, a new Education Minister, and revised funding arrangements in 2019 and 2020 for Catholic and Independent schools; and some things have not changed: in a few years’ time we will get a funding system based on parental income rather than the socio-economic status of small statistical areas in which our families live; we will still have complex reporting processes to support students with disabilities, and we will still face the pressures of educational costs rising faster than general inflation. I won’t touch any further on these matters now.

Let’s turn our attention for a moment to the 2019 school fees at MECS. Looking at the fee schedule in this newsletter you will see that the increase is 3.5% over 2018 fees. This compares with an increase of 3% for 2018, 3.3% for 2017, and average increases of around 5% annually for quite a few years before 2017. The Board is very conscious of affordability issues and had a robust discussion about fees in its recent meeting. Our 3.5% increase is a little higher than the ABS’s Education Price Index (EPI) which was 2.7% for the 12 months to June 2018. On the other hand the increase is lower than the ten year average annual fee increase of around 4.5%.

There are several factors contributing to the increase for 2019. Around 70% of the cost of operating the school can be found in staff salaries. We have a policy of paying staff at a similar level to staff in State and Catholic schools. The pay rates in the enterprise agreement for State schools that was put in place in 2017 (an important bench mark) have put upward pressure on our fees. Next, the level of resources in the domain of technology is another factor that creates pressure. The personal experiences of both parents and students in their use of technology creates expectations that we cannot avoid. Perhaps one example illustrates this better than any other. In 2010 we budgeted a little over $3000 for our internet access; in 2019 the budget is over $56,000. The final factor I’d like to mention here that contributes to the pressure on fees is the relative reduction in State funding. In real terms for a variety of complex reasons our State funding has reduced over the last few years.

Of course increases in fees need to be kept as low as possible to keep the school affordable. Where affordability becomes a challenge, the Board has a process to assist those families who are committed. When families have shown they are committed they can apply for assistance through a confidential fee assistance process that assesses the level of need (contact Craig Goldsmith in the office if you need details on how to apply).

In all of this we remain confident that MECS fee rates are affordable compared to the fees and levies of other local independent schools. That’s usually not a simple thing to do because comparing fees between schools can be like comparing ‘apples and pears’. Scholarships at other schools; our significant discounts for 2nd and 3rd children at MECS and especially our maximum family fee ceiling (rarely seen in other schools) don’t always lead to easy comparisons. We also work very hard at the ‘one fee pays all’ approach. We don’t want to advertise one fee rate and then later ‘load on’ a whole lot of ‘hidden extras’ such as subject levies, laptop fees, and camp fees that mean the real actual rate is a lot higher. The only extras you’ll see on a MECS bill are for optional things like Instrumental Music Tuition (if your child learns an instrument) or optional VET courses. And the only other items that may come as additional costs are items such as sports tops, stationery, a small number of textbooks in secondary, and if you use the bus – our very economical transport fees.

We know that each family in our community makes a sacrifice to invest in their children’s education. We know it is not easy. We hope that we have struck the right balance between keeping the school affordable and keeping it sustainable. Thank you for partnering with us.


Got something to add?

  • Your Comment