Back to school costs putting parents under pressure

Rising education costs are leaving many parents struggling to afford back to school expenses, according to Good Shepherd Microfinance, Australia’s largest microfinance organisation.

With parents paying out hundreds of dollars before their child even begins the school year, families on low incomes are finding it increasingly difficult to find money for the growing list of must-haves, which in many cases now includes a laptop or tablet.

Good Shepherd Microfinance CEO, Adam Mooney, said that Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiatives are now commonplace in schools across Australia.

“Many children are required to use their own personal devices in the classroom putting parents under significant financial pressure to provide laptops and tablets at their own expense.”

“The start of the school year is a particularly difficult time, with many people still struggling after the cost of Christmas. The added strain of finding money for uniforms, textbooks and laptops makes parents more vulnerable to the quick cash promises made by payday lenders.

“Nobody wants their child to be disadvantaged or taught separately from their peers because they don’t have the right equipment.”

Good Shepherd Microfinance offers no interest loans to people on low incomes for essential goods and services. The No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) loans range from $300 to $1,200 and include educational items such as computers and text books.

“Many people on low incomes are unaware of the low or no interest loans available to them. Currently only eight per cent of clients use our loans for computer equipment,” said Mr Mooney.

General Manager of Bendigo Family and Financial Services Inc, Jenny Elvey, says families on low incomes in Bendigo and surrounds are facing ever-increasing financial barriers when it comes to education.

“We’re hearing from parents that they are expected to cover more and more of their child’s school costs, putting them under significant financial strain.”

“Affordability should not be the deciding factor in whether a child succeeds in a particular subject, or can participate in school activities. On top of this, parents are concerned that sending their child to school without the right equipment will cause them anxiety and potentially make their child a target for bullying.

“For families unable to afford to save for these education costs, programs such as NILS are a huge help and a safe and affordable way to cover some of these back to school expenses,” said Ms Elvey.

Recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show education costs have increased by 81% over the past 15 years. According to the Australian Scholarships Group the Victorian average to educate a child in a government school from preschool to Year 12 is $68,343 in metro areas and $51,281 in regional areas.

Good Shepherd Microfinance offers no interest loans with no fees to people on low incomes, through 669 community provider locations across Australia including Bendigo Family and Financial Services. The No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) loans range from $300 to $1,200 for essential goods and services. More information at www.nils.com.au or phone 13 64 57.

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