Prices rise for private school families

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

‘Andrew’ admits that complaining about price hikes in private school fees is a conversation many people aren’t interested in hearing. It’s why he doesn’t mention it to his colleagues at the car repair workshop he owns and operates – or even the other private school parents at the prestigious inner-city school his child attends. But behind closed doors, he says, he does talk to this wife about how the increases will impact their budget.

And with nine of Victoria’s most expensive private schools upping their fees to charge more than $40,000 for the 2024 school year because of the state government’s new private school payroll tax, Andrew says they will need to find around an extra four thousand dollars for next year.

Independent schools in Victoria attribute the fee hikes of almost 10 per cent directly to the payroll tax, with warnings to parents that next year’s rises will only cover six months of the payroll tax in 2024 and that fees will rise again for 2025.

Although Andrew says his family’s budget is increasingly tight – especially in the wake of recent interest rate rises that have increased the monthly cost of their mortgage – his son made the change from public to private when he reached Year seven in 2021. It was a decision Andrew says he and his wife had made when they realised they would be a one-child family – and a decision he says that was reinforced after Victoria’s COVID years created a disconnection between his son and the value of education.

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The lockdowns had a pretty bad impact on his education,” Andrew says. “Before that he was engaged and excited about school – and he had big ambitions. We’d already thought we would make the investment in private school because he’s our only kid, but COVID made up our minds because we thought private school might offer him more and get him back on track.”

So far, Andrew says, that hope has turned into reality and with their 15-year-old actively involved in the school’s debating and rowing teams, as well as getting positive results in most subjects, he’s seen it as “a great return on the investment”.

“I think any parent just wants their child to be happy and healthy – and when it comes to school, we wanted him to enjoy it and for it to be something that could be a really good springboard into a life he loves,” Andrew says.

But without knowing how much the fees are set to rise in 2025 and 2026 – the years his son will be undertaking Years 11 and 12 – Andrew says he is feeling stressed.

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“It’s what you call a ‘first-world problem’, though, right?”

He acknowledges that the perception of private school parents is that they have “money to burn”. In his own case, Andrew says, that’s far from the truth. But now, with his son connected to education again and succeeding at a school he clearly loves, both Andrew and his wife are reluctant to change the situation – even if it means they do without in other areas.

“It won’t be easy for us but we’ll manage,” Andrew says. “I still know we are privileged to have this choice so it’s something we don’t complain about.”

Schools set to hit $40,000 per year in 2024

Caulfield Grammar School, Korowa Anglican Girls’ School, Lauriston Girls’ School, Melbourne Girls’ Grammar School, Scotch College and Wesley College will all charge more than $40,000 in year 12 fees next year, with Mount Scopus Memorial College and St Catherine’s School also expected to join the list, having already charged more than $40,000 this year. St Kilda’s St Michael’s Grammar is the latest school to announce a significant fee rise and shared a letter with parents earlier this week to announce a fee hike of 4.5 per cent in 2024, including $720 per student to cover the tax. The school’s 2024 fees for a local year 12 student will rise to $38,172, up 6.9 per cent on 2023.

Geelong Grammar School maintains its position as the state’s most expensive school, charging $49,720 for 2024 Year 12 tuition.

The state government introduced the payroll tax in its 2023 budget. At the time, sixty Catholic and independent schools were initially selected to pay the tax, but a government backflip in August adjusted the rules to ensure that only school’s that crossed the $15,000 threshold would be subject to the payroll levy.

The payroll tax threshold of $15,000 is in place until at least 1 January 2029 and will be reviewed ahead of that school year.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]