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Private schools ask alumni to help pay fees for families in distress

The Armadale college charges annual tuition fees of $23,616 in prep and $35,876 in years 10, 11 and 12.

The school community was told late last month that donations to the Lauriston Foundation had contributed to fee payments that had prevented four families of girls in years 6, 8, 11 and 12, from having to withdraw from the school.

Donations have helped four families keep children at Lauriston Girls' Grammar.

Donations have helped four families keep children at Lauriston Girls’ Grammar.Credit:Eddie Jim

Tuition fees at Methodist Ladies’ College range between $19,800 for a prep student and $33,180 for year 11 and 12 students.

The college generally seeks tax-deductible donations from alumni for building, scholarship and library funds, but has suspended many of those programs this year, as well as reducing its fees in June.

“The college has made some major decisions around expenditure in 2020, including the suspension of most capital works,” it said.

A spokesperson for MLC said: “We have always had tremendous support from our diverse alumnae community and, like many other independent schools, have shifted our philanthropic focus to support our current families during these extraordinary times.

Methodist Ladies’ College in Kew has appealed to alumni to donate to help current families in financial distress.

Methodist Ladies’ College in Kew has appealed to alumni to donate to help current families in financial distress. Credit:Paul Jeffers

Michelle Green, chief executive of Independent Schools Victoria, said COVID-19 was having a serious impact on independent schools putting the education and wellbeing of children at risk.

“Students in independent schools are vulnerable because their schools rely on fees paid by parents, many of whom have lost income and even jobs as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic,” Ms Green said.

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“Many schools have been approached by parents who fear they will have to withdraw their children from the school, or who have sought a fee reduction.”

Ms Green said schools had frozen fees and offered flexible payment plans or even temporarily waived fees for families hit by sudden unemployment.

“Many have appealed to their alumni and other supporters for donations to ensure students are not forced to move schools at a time when they already face massive disruption to their education,” Ms Green said.

Several private schools have cut their fees and temporarily stood down staff in response to the pandemic. Others have held the line on fees but invited struggling families to come forward and discuss fee relief.

Some high-fee schools have also said they expect to experience a decline in enrolments next year.

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