why parents continue to pay despite rising fees

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Funding was previously distributed to schools based on census data from the suburbs where students lived. Under the new Direct Measure of Income system, fully rolled out last year, parents’ tax data was used to estimate median income and how much they could afford to pay.

Richer schools in NSW with a “capacity to contribute score” above 100 saw fees increase by a median of 5.16 per cent, while those with a score below 100 increased fees by a median 2.58 per cent, the report said.

Amanda DeLuca with her children Riley, 17,  Cienna, 13, and Saige, 11.

Amanda DeLuca with her children Riley, 17, Cienna, 13, and Saige, 11.
Credit: Kate Geraghty

Sydney’s very high-fee private schools, which already had a score above 125 under the old system, did not see any change in funding because they were already receiving the lowest amount of government support. Likewise, schools with students from less advantaged areas and a score below 93 were already receiving the maximum amount.

Education sector figures believe principals in mortgage belt suburbs of Sydney were keenly aware that families faced mounting financial stress due to rising inflation and higher interest rates.

Centre for Independent Studies education expert Glenn Fahey said inflationary pressures on schools would be a bigger factor behind the decision to raise fees, but principals would do so carefully.

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“Fee changes could lead parents to reconsider their preferred school as cost of living bites,” he said.

Amanda DeLuca from Blacktown said she carefully considered enrolling her daughter Cienna, 13, at McDonald College in North Strathfield – a private performing arts schools which charges more than $28,000 in fees per high school student.

“It was a big decision to whether we could afford it or not,” she said.

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Cienna received a partial scholarship, and her parents use Edstart to spread their payments across the school year instead of paying a lump sum to the school each term. DeLuca, who is a fulltime carer for her other daughter, said she believed the expense was worth it after she enrolled in the school.

“I think education is very important. I also think following her passion and her dreams, allowing her the opportunity to pursue that, are important,” she said.

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Cienna liked McDonald College because she wants to pursue a career in dancing, but her mother was impressed by the strong academic focus at the school.

“She is focused on what she wants to do, also the level of what they were learning – I was blown away,” she said.

Association of Independent Schools of NSW chief executive Margery Evans said fee rises were well below inflation and schools were cognisant of costs for parents.

“Independent schools strive to minimise fee increases each year,” she said. “A 2.5 per cent rise in fees is much lower than the inflation rate, which is currently 7.3 per cent.”

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