Fee Increases Outstrip Cost Increases in Elite Private Schools in Queensland

School fees in Queensland’s elite private schools have increased by nearly 6% in 2012. Fees at Brisbane Boys Grammar and Girls Grammar are approaching $20,000. At the same time, they are raking in millions of dollars in government funding.

Year 12 fees for 2012 at 10 elite Queensland schools have increased by an average of 5.7% over 2011 fees [see table]. Another, Brisbane Boy’s Grammar, is expected to retain its position as the highest fee school, with Year 12 fees expected to exceed $19,000. Brisbane Girl’s Grammar fees are $18,680, up by $1,200 over 2011.

Fees exceed $17,000 in three other schools – Anglican Church Grammar, St. Margaret’s Anglican Girls School and Southport School.

The schools with the largest fee increases are St. Peter’s Lutheran College – up by 7.9% to $15,540; Somerville House – up by 7.5% to $16,162; and Brisbane Girl’s Grammar – up by 6.9%.

Schools claim that the fee increases are necessary to cover increasing costs. However, the increases far exceed cost increases in private education and training. The quarterly labour price index increased by only 3.9% in 2010-11 compared to the average fee increase of 5.8%. Only one school – Somerset College – kept its fee increase below the increase in the labour price index.

The fee increases ensure that these schools remain exclusive, recruiting their students from the wealthiest families in Queensland. Ten of the eleven schools have around 70% and more of their students from the highest socio-economic status (SES) quartile [see table]. Most of them only enrol one or two per cent of students from the lowest SES quartile.

Yet, these exclusive schools will receive millions of dollars in Federal Government funding in 2012. Eleven schools will get a total $57 million.

St. Peter’s Lutheran College with 85% of its enrolments from the highest SES quartile will receive $12 million. It will also get a further $4 million from the Queensland Government. Anglican Church Grammar with nearly 80% of its enrolments from the highest SES quartile will get $6.2 million from the Federal Government and $3 million from the state government. Brisbane Girl’s Grammar with 85% of its enrolments from the highest SES quartile will get $3.8 million from the Federal Government and over $2 million from the state.

The high fees and government funding give these schools are massive resource advantage over government schools. On average, they spend about $7,000 more per student than is spent on disadvantaged government schools in Queensland. Government funding for these elite schools would be better spent on improving the results of disadvantaged students. It is hoped that the Gonski review of school funding will correct this appalling misuse of taxpayer funds.

Trevor Cobbold

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