Private school sends debt collectors after parents

A private school left hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket as a result of parents’ unpaid fees has turned to debt collectors to recover the money.

Perth’s Trinity College, which charges $8,800 per year for primary school students and $14,000 for senior students, found that almost 40 parents – which had not made contact with the college – were in arrears throughout 2015.

In a newsletter, the college’s principal, Ivan Banks, warned that the trend would be stopped, advising parents that if final payments were not received by October, debt collectors would be called in.

“Notwithstanding that the college is willing to listen to all requests for assistance, it is essential that this trend be stopped,” Banks wrote, adding it was the school’s “least preferred” action.

Banks said that if families were under financial stress and were unable to pay the fees, they should contact the school so that their situation could be discussed.

“In these challenging economic times the college is mindful of the financial pressures being experienced by some families and is always willing to listen to their concerns and assist wherever possible,” he told The Sunday Times.

The issue of unpaid fees isn’t just having an impact on private schools. Government schools in Victoria, NSW and South Australia have also resorted to debt collectors in order to recover outstanding fees.

Last year it was revealed that South Australian public schools billed parents an estimated $56.5m in 2014, close to the $61m paid by parents in NSW, which has more than four times as many students, but a voluntary fee system.

South Australian Primary Principals Association (SAPPA) president, Pam Kent, said the main reasons fees went unpaid were split families arguing over the bills and struggling parents on low incomes de-prioritising them.

While the issue itself is not new, the impact it is having on private schools is gradually becoming more pronounced. For example, this year saw the first time that private schools experienced a drop in enrolments.

Last month, an analysis of official school enrolment data by Australian Development Strategies demographer, John Black, revealed that Gen-X parents living in inner-cities were more likely to choose free public schools that rival nearby private colleges in academic excellence.