Many Australian families are being financially squeezed by the economy, resulting in more consideration over purchases and bills—including education.

For school admissions teams, it’s important to know that the families joining you have the means to make their tuition payments and keep their children enrolled from the beginning of their education until the end. After all, investing time and energy nurturing families who can’t afford your school is a disappointment for everyone involved (not to mention the negative impact it can have on your school’s reputation).

This is why many independent schools have turned to Feesable, a tool that empowers families to better understand school fees and make more informed decisions about the cost of educating their kids. In the last financial year, Feesable assisted over 21,300 Australian families in calculating fees associated with their desired school. This has given Feesable unique data on the economy of school fees, which has now been compiled into an insightful report. Read on for some key takeaways, or download the full report here

Feesable and Funnel in action 

Before we dive into the data, let's look at how Feesable and Funnel can work together to improve your school's systems, generate leads, access more detailed reporting and improve the experience of potential families! 

When a new fee estimate is calculated on your school website using the Fee Calculator, this data will be automatically sent to Funnel, helping your school track new lead enquiries and nurture them through to enrolment.

The integration between the two platforms is a seamless one-way data push from Feesable into Funnel. There's no need to worry about data being overridden as Funnel will always be the source of truth. If a new fee estimate is submitted from an existing lead within Funnel, you can rest assured that Feesable won’t overwrite or undo any of the hard work you might have already done with that lead.

School fees by numbers

Drawing from unique data generated by the thousands of families using the Feesable School Fee Calculator last financial year, the report shows insights that are helpful for understanding the market, benchmarking your fees, shaping your fee strategy and creating your brand position. 

The real-world data is drawn from 21,358 families and 30,977 fee estimates over a 12-month period. From this, the total value of the fees estimated is a whopping $373.6 million! The report also shows that the average annual fee value for Feesable schools was $12,070 per family, while the median was $10,056. 

While these figures are dependent on many different factors, they provide a great sense of the range of school fees that families would actually outlay in a given year since they account for tuition, discounts, levies and other charges.

The complex task of increasing school fees

For leadership teams at private and independent schools, setting school fees is one of the more difficult decisions made each year. Increasing school fees can be a fragile balancing act between achieving your school’s financial goals and remaining financially manageable for families. It’s vital for schools to consider where their increases are made and how the increases are communicated. 

According to Feesable’s data, 2023 saw most schools return to standard year-on-year fee increases, with the average increase being 4.79%. For some schools, the increase was much larger in an attempt to catch up from more supportive COVID years, when many families needed ad-hoc discounts and assistance.

The data also shows that a number of schools made little change to top-line tuition fees but made changes to sibling discounts as a more subtle way of increasing fees and profits. Some schools chose to make strategic increases for certain year groups but not for others, most likely a reflection of supply and demand. Meanwhile, most schools pushed levies upwards to help meet growing costs.

Transparency in school fees

Across Australia, many schools add levies, charges and miscellaneous fees on top of tuition costs. But in a bid for transparency, forward-thinking schools are making an effort to simplify their fee structures and offer ways for families to manage the cost of educating their children.

For many schools, this has meant moving away from the traditional PDF Fee Schedule displayed on the website, as it leaves the often complex calculation in the hands of families. Shifts in thinking have also put increased focus on the communication around school fees and, in particular, fee increases. This plays an important part in trust building and keeping current families happy—and enrolled.

Annual fee increases open up a sensitive conversation with your current families on price, often making them question the value of your school. Needless to say, good communication and transparency are integral.  

The impact of discounts

A vast majority of schools offer some form of discount to families, such as sibling discounts, early payment discounts, staff discounts or scholarships. For some families, these discounts can be the difference between attending a private school or a government school.

According to Feesable’s data, schools typically offer a sibling discount up to the 4th child, while 15.5% of schools offer a 5th child discount. Average sibling discount ranges from 18.3% for the 2nd child, through to 73.7% for the 4th child.

To attract families and strategically improve school cash flow for the school, early payment discounts are very common. The average early payment discount is 4.15% for early payment, but the nature of ‘early’ varies from a full year before through to per term or per month, with sliding discounts as the time gets closer.

Demand and demographics

It would be natural to assume that rising financial pressures would negatively impact enrolment rates at private schools. Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be the case, with almost 42% of schools showing strong or increasing enrolments through the last financial year.

Not surprisingly, 20.1% of fee estimates were allocated to Year 7, which continues to be the main entry point for students, followed by Kindergarten, which took second place in terms of fee estimate searches.

When it comes to demographics, the data shows that women are in charge of school fee research, a task they tend to take on midweek, in the afternoon or early evening. For schools, this can be valuable data that helps shape marketing campaigns and messaging.

Download the 2023 School Fee Insights report to dig deeper on these insights.

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Published 20 October 2023