'Sky High' School Fees? What Parents Can Do

'Sky High' School Fees? What Parents Can Do
By C Hoppe
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Parents across Dubai were left reeling this week with the news that the city's schools will potentially be able to increase their fees from between 3.21 to 6.42 percent for the 2016/17 academic year.

At WhichSchoolAdvisor.com we have been inundated  with questions on the decision by the KHDA to permit the increase in fees. ‘When will my school announce an increase?’, ‘How likely is it my school will increase their fees?’ and ‘How will it happen?’

So we've decided to answer all your questions and more...


How likely it is my school will increase their fees again this year?

Every school in Dubai has varying costs to cover on an annual basis. These include staffing, land rental facility maintenance and upgrades, and more… all these factors will determine whether your school will raise its fees this year.

If your school has already raised their fees more than once over the last few years, it is less likely it will this year unless they have made substantial investments in new facilities and upgrades of resources.


How Does The Fee Increase Process Work?

Fee increases are determined by many factors and must be submitted to the KHDA for justification BEFORE the school can increase anything.

WSA’s James Mullan says, “the biggest increases are available only to those schools rated Outstanding by the KHDA,  a very few schools (13 I think) out of hundreds. Not all of these schools will increase their fees by the maximum allowed and we know that at least two of these schools have communicated with parents that there will be no increase next year.”

“If they do decide to increase their fees,” he says, “ parents should be able to ask where the funds are going - but bear in mind many schools will be investing in improvements, and in staff salary and retention, and trying to maintain that Outstanding rating.”

“Good schools are trying to improve their offering to be Outstanding, and that often means strengthening education provision, not cutting back,” he goes on to say.

Clive Pierrepont at Taaleem says, “"we understand parents’ concerns regarding any increase in school fees. However to employ the very top teaching talent we have to offer highly competitive rates of pay, plus benefits. Around 70% of our schools’ costs are usually allocated to staffing; this cannot be done on the cheap. “

He continues, “the quality of a school never exceeds the quality of teachers; the single most important feature in a successful school is a highly talented, motivated and effective staff. Staffing costs continue to increase (5-10% per year on average) and at Taaleem, we always try to absorb these as far as possible by prudent housekeeping and cost review exercises. Even after 11 years of great achievements and being recognised in the region as a highly respected, successful and efficient schools company, our investors have not received any repayment of their original investment."


What you can do:

Ask your school to explain and justify why and where the money will be spent if you do find yourself faced with a fee hike.

If you foresee any financial issues ahead, try discussing a revised payment schedule with the school BEFORE you experience any issues.


If they do increase fees, when will they tell us?

WSA’s Lyn Soppelsa says, “each school has to apply individually for KHDA approval to increase up to the maximum for their rating.  They have to justify the increase by showing where the funds will go.  In previous years, it has been the end of the Summer school term before they have received approval.”

In fact, nothing is set in stone. Before your school can increase their fees, they must submit a business case to the KHDA based on or near the percentage that they're allowed to increase their fees by.

The KHDA considers the application and then either approves or rejects the application. If accepted the school must then submit its communication plan for advising parents about the fee increase to KHDA for approval.

Once everything is finalised the business case can be approved anytime between now and the end of June for the following academic year.

Did you know: Many independent schools wishing to increase fees will as a matter of course present their proposal to do so in detail to the parents, explaining exactly how it will be spent and justifying the increase.


Why are all the new schools so expensive?

Setting up a new school is costly; land prices, construction, resources and staff relocation, all cost money, and lots of it. If we want new schools we also have to acknowledge that we need investors and at some point they want a return on their money, or they would invest in something else, which does so more quickly!

While new schools might be expensive their fees are generally set for 2 years ahead. “the new schools that show fees on their websites for next year; have to get approval from the get-go and the annual increase does not apply to them,” says WSA’s Lyn Soppelsa.


What you can do:

Many new schools are offering ‘Founders discounts;’ ask about these when visiting the school.

If you have two or more children, you are in a strong position to discuss with the school any further discounts or incentives that they could implement if you brought your children to the school.


How does more Dubai schools and increased seat availability impact me?

More schools equal more seats and this equals more competition between schools. And, while it would be unrealistic to expect the likes of DC, JESS, Nord Anglia and co to suddenly have a slew of seats available, many of the newer names might well start looking at attractive ways to bring new students in over the next few years.


What You Can Do:

Ask! As the old saying goes - If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

Discuss the possibility of discounts, especially if you have more than one child.

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