The economic impact of months of lockdown is taking its toll. The number of parents who struggle to pay school fees is expected to increase in 2021, as more job losses and financial challenges are on the cards.
According to the TPN Credit Bureau, schools are finding it increasingly difficult to collect fees. Many teachers are also losing their jobs. School fees are the largest source of income for more than 90% of private schools and 60% of public schools.
Public schools rely on fees to pay for additional teachers not funded by the Department of Basic Education, as well as additional costs incurred by the school. However, parents with children at fee paying public schools can apply for exemption from fees based on their financial situation.
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Fees are not a priority
“The challenge facing many schools – even prior to the COVID-19 crisis – is that paying school fees is not a high priority among a growing body of parents who are prioritising mortgages, rent, car finance, store cards and even payday loans over school fees,” explains Michelle Dickens, managing director of TPN Credit Bureau.
Almost 22% of learners who opt out of the education system say they can no longer afford to pay fees. “The reality is that the cost of education is not limited to school fees alone,” points out Dickens. “What also needs to be factored in is the cost of transport to get to school. Many families cannot afford this. As a result, 66% of children at public schools are left to walk to school.”
As a credit bureau, TPN gives schools an opportunity to score parents on their ability to pay school fees. This applies both to parents applying for exemptions – in the case of fee paying public schools – and for private schools wanting to find out whether new parents can afford to pay the fees.
For more on saving for your child’s education, read here
Advice if you are struggling to pay fees:
What you can do:
- Speak to your school bursar to request a deferment of your fees until year-end.
- Check if you qualify for fees exemption and which supporting documents are needed.
- Review options such as aftercare. You may have to give the school 30 days’ notice if you want to cancel it.
- Look at switching to a more affordable school.
- Investigate online school options. Remember to factor in monthly data costs and costs for devices and printing in addition to fees.