Canberra private schools have opted for minimal school fee increases as they grapple with the financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Emmaus Christian School in Dickson was among a handful of schools to not increase school fees in 2021, a very unusual move, principal Erik Hofsink said.
"We didn't have as many expenses as we used to have around excursions and resources and that sort of thing so we just thought it was fair to pass on those savings back to the parents by saying, 'here's some recognition of all the troubles that everyone had in COVID'," Mr Hofsink said.
The independent school usually increases fees by 3-5 per cent to keep in step with wage increases but this year the fees would remain steady at $7621 for year 9 and 10 students, which included all subject levies and excursion expenses.
Mr Hofsink said the school was forging ahead with its master plan to expand. The school had grown from 300 students in 2018 to more than 500 in 2021, he said.
Of the independent schools that have released their 2021 fee schedules, Canberra Christian School would hold tuition fees at $2760 while Trinity Christian College would implement a minimal fee rise of $72 and $93 for primary and secondary students, respectively.
Burgmann Anglican School would raise the tuition component between $400 and $450 per student. Parents of year 9 to 12 students would pay $12,350 per year.
Radford College would charge $18,343 for year 11 and 12, increasing fees between $320 and $520 per student. Daramalan College was implementing a 4.4 per cent increase on tuition fees, meaning year 11 and 12 tuition would cost about $6117.
Canberra Girls Grammar School parents were facing the biggest increase in fees. They would be paying between $540 and $800 more per student depending on their year level, bringing the tuition fees for year 11 and 12 students to $25,370 for the year.
The ACT's most expensive school - Canberra Grammar School - would increase fees by between $455 and $645 per student, meaning tuition alone for a year 11 or 12 student would set parents back $26,395 for the year.
Head of school Dr Justin Garrick said the 2021 fee increase was the smallest increase in percentage terms in about 20 years.
"We know that the world is facing all sorts of difficulties this year and our parent community is not immune from that by any means and so we've been trying to make sure that we support our community as best we possibly can throughout this time," he said.
Dr Garrick said some expenses, such as cleaning, went up in 2020 but this was offset by many activities that couldn't go ahead due to coronavirus restrictions. Parents were refunded for extra-curricular activities that were unable to proceed.
Parents with children enrolled in ACT Catholic systemic schools would be paying $1680 for primary students and between $4220 and $5266 for high school students for the central tuition fees. Individual Catholic schools were able to charge fees and levies for particular programs on top of this amount.
Director of Catholic Education in the Canberra Goulburn Archdiocese Ross Fox said this represented a 3-4 per cent increase for primary schools and a 5 per cent increase for secondary schools.
"We're operating in a context which we're very sensitive to what parents are asked to pay," Mr Fox said.
"This year we have had a significant program to financially assist families who have been significantly affected by COVID. To date, that's involved in excess of $600,000 in fee remissions ... we anticipate that that may get to $1 million by the end of the year."
Mr Fox said a staff pay increase was pushing expenses up in Catholic schools, while the system was also facing a reduction in funding from the ACT government as it transitioned to funding independent schools to 20 per cent of the school resourcing standard.
"[Government funding is] going to be cut by more than $100 a student in the next few years so it's a significant amount of money at a system level," he said.
Mr Fox said the Catholic Education system would deal with funding changes through efficiencies at a central level and by increasing school fees.