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A Timely Reminder – Mitigating the Risk of Non-Payment of School Fees

With the new school year well and truly in full swing, it is a timely reminder for all schools to consider their internal enrolment processes and fee policy documentation to assist in mitigating against the ever-present issue of late payment or non-payment of school fees.

 As a refresher, there are a myriad of steps that a school can take to ensure that they are placed in the strongest possible position when attempting to mitigate the risk of late payment or non-payment of school fees. Some of these actions are as follows: 

1.Firm and clear enrolment documents – the enrolment document is the legal basis for the relationship between families and the school and is the key document to be relied upon to recover outstanding fees.
With that in mind, the terms of the document, particularly as they relate to the school’s rights to recover outstanding fees, and who is responsible for payment of fees, must be clear. It is also important that all relevant persons are parties to the enrolment document, as well as any variation to that document. 

2.Implementation of a clear Fee Policy – the policy should be provided to families each year. The policy must clearly set out the school’s expectations about payment terms and plans, as well as providing options for those who may be experiencing financial hardship. 

3.Involvement of the Business Manager and Finance Team – ensuring that your team are across enrolments and policies, as well as carrying out all internal collection processes in a timely manner (do not delay follow ups!). It is also important for families to see that the team are available to assist to discuss any concerns, including hardship. 

When enrolment and internal processes are firm, schools can be comforted that they are well placed to obtain timely payment of school fees. Of course, there are always “additional” steps a school may take to mitigate against the risk of non-payment, such as: 

  1. Publishing regular reminders / notices in newsletters or other publications which are distributed to the wider school community on a regular basis; 
  2. Ensuring regular and consistent communication with families throughout the whole year, and not just at the start or end of a term / semester; and 
  3. Offering appropriate discounts to families who pay fees up front for a semester of whole school year. 

Sometimes, even with well drafted documents, policies and a resourced team, recovery attempts can be futile. In those circumstances, we recommend early referral to an external debt collection agency or  solicitor. Our team at Platinum Collection Agency and Lynch Meyer Lawyers are leaders in the education sector. Please contact Alice Carter on 08 8236 7626 or acarter@lynchmeyer.com.au should you wish to have a free, no obligation 15 minute telephone consultation.