Beyond the data – a deeper dive on the School Fee Insights Report

October 10 2023

Digging deeper into the Challenges and realities revealed in the 2023 Feesable School Fee Insights report

The decision to send kids to a private school is a significant one for Australian families. Feesable is privileged to help facilitate this decision by assisting over 21,300 Australian families last financial year to better understand school fees, and make more informed decisions about private schooling and the cost of educating their kids.
In this unique position operating between schools and families, Feesable is able to generate some interesting data. In line with our efforts to promote more transparency, we are pleased to surface this data in our latest report – the 2023 School Fee Insights report.

This report has been put together as a useful reference tool for school business, marketing and admissions teams. 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, shaping your fee strategy and planning marketing campaigns.

Real World Data

From over 30,977 fee estimates over 12 months, the report shows that the average annual fee value for Feesable schools was $12,070 per family, while the median was $10,056. This data can be useful to benchmark your average fee levels. While these figures are dependent on many different factors, they provide an accurate sense for the range of school fees that families would actually outlay in a given year since they account for tuition, discounts, levies and other charges and reflect the family unit as families weigh up to cost of sending multiple children.

Our data also reveals some interesting trends and figures across year groups, from year group fee averages to year-on-year increases per year cohort – download the report to get the full insights.

The annual challenge of setting school fees

At Feesable, we understand that setting school fees is one of the more difficult decisions leadership at private and independent schools must make each year. We see how schools carefully manage this complex decision with various strategic approaches to this annual challenge.
Customers never like price increases, so increasing school fees is a fragile process to manage – a balance between reaching financial objectives to stay viable, and remaining ‘affordable’ to the target market. This comes down to the proportional increase, where the increases are made, and importantly, how the increases are communicated.

In terms of year-on-year increases, 2023 saw most schools return to standard fee increases. From the data, the average year-on-year increase across Feesable schools was 4.79%. Some schools passed on much larger increases in an effort to re-adjust from COVID years, where fees were kept low to support families and retain enrolments.

A number of schools made little change to top-line tuition, but adjusted sibling discounts to somewhat ‘mask’ increases since this is far less obvious to families. Other schools strategically increased certain year groups and left others static based on demand and supply. Levis and charges are an obvious candidate for increases, and most schools fine-tuned these levies in an upward direction to meet their financial objectives.

Complexity & Transparency

While many schools have additional levies and charges on top of tuition, we also see that innovative schools are working hard to simplify their fee structures, be more transparent, and provide helpful ways for families to plan for, and pay their fees.

It is no doubt complex for a school to work out and manage their fees, but families also encounter complexity on a number of levels as they navigate school fees. The traditional ‘Fee Schedule’, displayed as a PDF on the website, is the typical way schools communicate their fees – this leaves families to do the often complex work of calculating fees, with all the discounts, levies and charges.

Communicating fees, let alone fee increases, is challenging for schools. Some schools will send out the new year fee schedule to families to inform of the changes, while other schools do little to communicate any fee changes and simply start charging the new fees, much to the surprise of current families – not a great way to engender trust.

These complexities can be addressed through transparency.

At Feesable, we are big on promoting transparency around school fees, and making it simple for families to understand the cost of education. Innovative schools partnering with Feesable, use our School Fee Calculator to help both prospective and current families, making it simple to work out fees. For current families, an annual fee increase is essentially re-opening a conversation on price, and making them question the value of your school – so it’s crucial to communicate this well, be fully transparent about the changes, and in doing so you will re-generate trust and increase retention.

The Impact of Discounts

A vast majority of schools offer some form of discount to families. This commonly takes the form of sibling discounts, and early payment discounts. Other less common discounts include staff discount, church affiliation or government schemes to reduce fees. 

These discounts benefit both families and schools, but which way the scales tip is difficult to say, and of course varies across schools. For some families, the sibling discount is the difference between attending the private school or not. While early payment discounts often give minimal benefit to families, yet have a big impact on cash flow for schools.

Typically schools offer a sibling discount up to the 4th child, while 15.5% of schools offer a 5th child discount. The spread of these discounts, and how these discounts apply varies greatly – from a simple ‘family’ discount, to complex sliding scales of discounts across year groups and number of siblings. 

Average sibling discount ranges from 18.3% for the 2nd child, through to 73.7% for the 4th child. Download the report for deeper insights on these sibling discounts and average fee values per sibling to help benchmark your discount strategies.

Early payment discounts are one way schools seek to attract families and strategically improve cash flow for the school. A majority of schools offer this type of discount, with an average discount being 4.15% for early payment. The nature of ‘early’ varies from prepayment for a full year before the year starts, through to discounts given for families being on a certain payment plan, per term or per month, with sliding discounts.

Discounts are one of the many components that make school fees complex for families to work out. For the most part, these discounts are of benefit to families in choosing a school, and choosing to remain at the school despite fee increases. So it should be in the interest of schools to make it simple for families to work out these discounts – that’s where smart tools like the Feesable School Fee Calculator will be of great use to families, and hence a benefit to schools.

Demand & Demographics

Despite rising fees, and ongoing financial pressures on families, almost 42% of schools reported strong or increasing enrolments. Year 7 continues to be the main entry point which is clearly supported by the data taking up 20.1% of fee estimates, while Kindergarten represents the second most popular requested year group.

The data also indicates a strong demand based on the healthy number of enrolment enquiries flowing into private schools. Feesable continues to be the leading source of high quality leads for schools, offering on average, 19 enrolment enquiries per month – those families who request to be contacted about enrolment. This is just a portion of the number of families that use the School Fee Calculator with an average usage of 78 times per month, per school.

From a demographic perspective, the data reveals that women are doing the majority of school fee research. They do this mid week, in the afternoon or early evening. This data can be useful for planning marketing campaigns and target personas for school messaging.

If you haven’t already, make sure you download the 2023 School Fee Insights report to see all the data, plus more insights to help inform your school strategies. To learn how Feesable can benefit your school with internal efficiencies and excellent customer experiences that build trust and boost enrolments – book a demo

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