We all want the best for our children, which is why paying school expenses such as fees, uniforms, books, sports and camps, can be quite stressful.

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We all want the best for our children, and education plays a crucial role in their future. However, school expenses, from tuition fees to uniforms and out of school activities, can sometimes cause a financial strain.

This page outlines the steps you can take if you are experiencing financial hardship and are struggling to pay your child’s school fees and expenses. It covers what to do if your child attends a public school, independent or private school.

If you complete the steps below and your problem still hasn’t been solved, or you are feeling overwhelmed, call us on 1800 007 007 to speak with one of our financial counsellors.

Steps to take if you are struggling to pay school expenses


Work out what you can afford to pay

If you’re struggling to pay back money you owe, the first thing to do is to work out what you can actually afford to pay by doing a simple budget. How to work out what you can afford to pay.

If you can afford to pay something
Start paying the amount you can afford and get in touch with your creditor straight away to put a repayment agreement in place.

If you can’t afford to pay anything
Call us on 1800 007 007 straight away for advice.


Consider cancelling direct debits

If your school expenses are being paid through direct debit, think about cancelling it. This way you have more control over your payment schedule and avoid overdrawing your bank account.

Check with the school first about other methods of payment.

Read more about cancelling direct debits.


Contact the school

Public schools

Public or government schools are fee free.

  • Some public schools may charge a ‘voluntary contribution’ or donation fee to enhance their educational programs. The payment of these contributions is not compulsory. If you cannot afford to pay the voluntary fees do not pay them. You are not required to do so. If the public school is demanding that you pay the voluntary contribution, contact us for advice.
  • Some public schools may request contributions for elective subjects that go beyond the minimum curriculum requirements. If you are unable to pay elective subject contributions because of financial hardship, you may be eligible for assistance from the school.
  • If you wish to contribute, pay what you can afford. Explain to the school that you cannot afford the full expenses but will contribute what you can and when you can.
  • You can also ask the school about financial assistance for basic compulsory items like uniform, school excursion and school supplies. Many schools have funds set aside to cover these types of expenses for families in financial hardship.

Independent and Private Schools

If you fall behind on private school fees, the school can ask your child to leave and may pursue you for the outstanding debt.

  • Reach out to your school as soon as possible and discuss your difficulty in paying the fees with the principal or financial manager.
  • Aim to keep paying what you can and establish an agreed-upon payment plan that you can afford. Get this confirmed in writing and stick to the plan.
  • Ask your school if they have access to any student assistance schemes designed to support families with low incomes. This type of scheme is available in most states and territories.
  • In some cases, schools might consider waiving or reducing fees, especially if you have a long association with the school or if your child has brought prestige in academics, sports or other areas.
  • Ask if they would consider allowing you to offer a professional or other service to the school in exchange for reducing or waiving the fees or debt.

If affording the fees seems impossible in the foreseeable future, you might need to consider changing schools. Try to negotiate this transition in a way that minimises disruption for your child.


If the school won’t agree to an arrangement

If you can’t reach a fair agreement with your school, or you believe you are being asked to pay for something you don’t owe, get advice from us about your options.

  Private schools may resort to legal action to recover unpaid fees.

You are more at risk of the school taking legal action against you if fees remain unpaid and you do not do anything about it.

If the school obtains a court judgment, they can take action to recover their money. They can do things like taking and selling your personal property, taking money from your wages or bank account, and by making you bankrupt.

If your school is threatening legal action or has already commenced it, contact us immediately on 1800 007 007.

For more information on what the school can do after obtaining judgment and your options, refer to our page on Court Judgments.


Speak to one of our financial counsellors

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some help to deal with your financial hardship, you can speak with one of our financial counsellors.

Financial counsellors aren’t judgmental about your circumstances – they’re here to offer you free, confidential and independent advice and assistance.

To speak to a financial counsellor you can:

  • Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 – open Weekdays from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
  • Use our live chat service by clicking the chat icon in the bottom right corner of your screen. Live chat is available 9:00 am to 8.00 pm weekdays. If you send a message outside these hours a financial counsellor will get back to you.
  • Make an appointment to see a financial counsellor in your local area – Find a local Financial Counsellor.


  • Do speak to your school about financial hardship options and assistance schemes you may be eligible for.
  • Don’t use your credit card or Buy Now Pay Later credit to pay school expenses – this will only add to your debt
  • Don’t be tempted to go to a payday (fast loan) lender or take out a personal loan. You could end up further in debt and in even more financial difficulty.
  • Do check what concessions, grants, rebates and other assistance is available from your state or territory government to help with school expenses and activities. See our Concessions and Grants page for more information.
  • Do consider a No Interest Loan to safely and affordably cover the cost of school items including BYOD technology such as laptops or Ipads, as well as stationary, books, school camps, musical instruments and more. See our No Interest Loans page for more information.
  • Do consider joining the Saver Plus program. For every dollar you save, you will receive another dollar from ANZ to spend towards educational costs, up to $500. This money can be used for laptops, iPads, books and school uniforms. For more information, visit the Saver Plus page or phone 1300 610 355.