Three tips for Schools with unpaid school fees
Every parent chooses the best education they can for their children, and if they choose to send their children to a private school or college, they will make a choice so the school fees are within their budget at the time they make their decision.
It happens to all of us at some stage in our lives, situations change and so too can our ability to meet all our financial commitments. School fee payments are no different. When this happens, the most important consideration is that a student’s education is impacted as little as possible, and every school will be mindful of this, although they also have their own financial position to consider.
Our top three tips for schools when it comes to school fees:
Speak to parents as soon as possible
We always encourage open dialogue from the start, the benefits are:
– A revised payment arrangement for the school fees could be put in place, which will ensure continuation of payment, albeit at a different level
– Ensuring that the unpaid school fees do not escalate to a point where the parents no longer have the capacity to repay the debt or the school needs to engage with a third party to recover the debt
Engage with a debt collection agency who specifically understands schools
Partnering with a trusted debt collection agency who has access to in house lawyers is often a cost effective way to seek some assistance if you ever need it.
Establishing a relationship before you need assistance is prudent to ensure you source the right partner for your school or college. Make sure you take the time to engage with a partner who will work with you to preserve your brand and reputation and who is prepared to take the time to understand your values. You want to make sure anyone who is contacting your parents is not damaging these relationships in your community.
Review Your Enrolment Contract
An enrolment form is a legally binding contract between the school (who commits to providing educational services to the enrolled student), and the parents (who commit to paying school fees).
It’s important that you review your contract to ensure there is detail around the payment of school fees, including the impact of failing to pay.
Consideration should also be given to:
– Providing clarification over who is liable for the school fees and ensuring that they sign the contract, eg where parents are overseas, or are separated.
– Ensuring you are aware at enrolment of any Family Court orders or other court orders that may impact on the student. This may affect who should sign the enrolment form, who is entitled to receive information about the student (including reports) and who can collect the student from school.
– If parents separate after enrolment, how do you ensure you are notified of any orders? What processes do you have in place to deal with the situation where a domestic violence (intervention) order has been obtained by one parent against the other? To avoid liability, it is critical that schools require parents to keep them notified of any such situation.
– Being clear as to what services you are providing in your contract and limiting your liability for breach of contract.
Kearley Lewis specialises in providing school fee recovery services to schools and have access to in-house Law firm Lewis Holdway Lawyers.
If anyone involved in schools, either as principals, teachers, administrators, councillors or parents, would like more information from Lewis Holdway Lawyers, please contact our Director of Dispute Resolution, Chris Morey on (03) 9629 9629.