Parents of students at some of Sydney’s most exclusive schools are reportedly being charged thousands of dollars just to secure their children’s enrolment.
Trinity Grammar, Cranbrook and The King’s School are among city’s elite institutions which charge prospective students a non-refundable enrolment fee.
An independent all-boys school, Trinity Grammar hiked its enrolment fee by almost 80 per cent to $5000 in the past year, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Shore School, in the city’s north, likewise increased its combined confirmation and enrolment fee by about 30 per cent to $4000 since 2021, despite rising cost of living.
The fee is one of many faced by parents and ranges from $2000 to $7275, which is used to confirm a student will accept a place – on top of application fees of up to $400.
In some cases, parents are reportedly paying enrolment fees two to three years before their children commence their studies in order to secure a place at an elite school.
The fee hike comes after similar increases projected for tuition in the 2023 school year, and is described by critics as a way of stopping parents “shopping around”.
Education governance expert and former member of council at Scotch College John Simpson told SMH the fees are used to give schools greater certainty about revenue.
“They force anxious parents to make early and binding decisions about where to enrol their child,” he told the Sydney paper on Wednesday.
“But, very high upfront fees really can’t be justified if they don’t go towards school tuition costs once a child starts at the school.
“As school fees and cost-of-living pressures rise, enrolment charges will go up. Schools need to be wary of fee gouging before a child has started at the school.
“A modest enrolment fee is justified – but what we are seeing in the sector cannot any longer be described as modest.”
Many schools reportedly do not allow enrolment fees to be counted towards tuition, and it is forfeited if parents decide to sent their children elsewhere.
The fees are often demanded before thousands of public selective school places are announced, about six months before the start of the school year.
Nonetheless, the payment structure was defended by institutions such as Cranbrook School, which charges parents a $7275 fee to secure a place.
In recent letters to prospective parents, Cranbrook principal Nicholas Sampson reportedly said the non-refundable enrolment fee was required for all incoming students.
Mr Simpson said the fee was used to “help build an endowment fund to ensure the financial security of the school”, which received about $1.7m in enrolment fees last year.
Trinity Grammar principal Tim Bowden told SMH it had been a decade since the school council last reviewed the charges, which were generally payable in the two years before a start date.
“One of the functions of the fee is to require families to demonstrate their intention to come to Trinity,” he said.
“Otherwise, they could accept places at half a dozen schools and walk away at the last minute