Private school parents asked to pay non-refundable enrolment fees to discourage ‘school shopping’

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Parents are being asked to fork out thousands of dollars in non-refundable enrolment fees to secure places at Australia’s most prestigious private schools.

This year, Perth’s Scotch College requires first-time parents to pay $8365 after their child is accepted into the school. At another Perth school – Hale School – the enrolment fee is $8100.

Without the payment – often required years in advance of the child commencing as a student – schools will not confirm the placement.

In the case of Perth’s Scotch College, the amount includes a $7650 endowment fee, which the school says supports resources, as well as the development of new buildings on campus. A fee of $715 is charged for a life membership to the Old Scotch Collegians programme. Although the $715 can be refunded if the child does not commence at the school, the endowment fee is non-refundable.

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Although it is typical for private schools across the country to require enrolment payments to secure a child’s placement, the amount parents are asked to pay is often under $1000.

In Sydney, the all-boys independent school Trinity Grammar raised its enrolment fee by almost 80 per cent – to $5000 – in the past year. Since 2021 at the city’s Shore School, the combined confirmation and enrolment fee climbed by one-third to $4000.

Cranbrook – a dual campus Anglican boys’ school located in Rose Bay and Bellevue Hill – charges parents a $300 application fee and $7275 fee to secure a place.

In recent letters to prospective parents, Cranbrook principal Nicholas Sampson explained that the non-refundable enrolment fee required for all incoming students is used to “help build an endowment fund to ensure the financial security of the school”. Parents who advise the school they will not take up the place on offer – even up to eight months before a child is expected to commence – are also charged a term’s tuition.

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School shopping

The fees, say critics, are designed to stop ‘school shopping’ by parents who often try to join multiple waiting lists, and then withdraw applications if their child is offered a place at another more desirable school, or after being offered a place at a sought-after selective entry school.

But, in defence of the rising non-refundable enrolment fees, a spokeswoman for Presbyterian Ladies’ College in Perth said their enrolment fee was not designed to stop parents shopping around.

In 2022, she said, 76.3 per cent of the school’s revenue was used for teacher salaries, and that school fees overall had risen an average of 3 per cent since 2020.

“We encourage families to take their time and enrol at the school that is right for them … we rarely see students withdraw an application.”

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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]