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Putting the most expensive schools in South Africa into perspective

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Putting the most expensive schools in South Africa into perspective

Sending your child to one of South Africa’s most expensive boarding schools can and will add up quickly.

Most parents would agree that you cannot put a price on a good education, but it seems as though the most expensive schools in South Africa are trying their best to do it anyway.

South African boarding school prices have increased since 2023

South Africans are well aware that the cost of just about everything goes up annually, and it seems as though this is also true for the most expensive private and day schools within the country’s borders.

As of the start of the 2024 school year, Hilton College – which has earned the title as South Africa’s most expensive school ten years in a row – is no longer the only luxury boarding school that charges more than R350 000 in school fees annually. And, more than half of the country’s most expensive schools now charge more than R350 000 for tuition and board in 2024.

South Africa’s most expensive boarding schools from 2014 to 2024

The fees at South Africa’s most expensive schools have gone up more than 5% across the board since 2023. But, if you look back even further, to 2014, you will realize that most of these schools’ fees have almost doubled over the course of the last ten years, as follows:

School Fees in 2014 Fees in 2024 (% increase in fees)
Hilton College R209,000 R397 660 (47,4% increase)
Michaelhouse R192,000 R368 000 (47.8% increase)
St Andrew’s College R182,700 R363 879 (49.8% increase)
Roedean School for Girls R181,140 R360 087 (49.7% increase)
St John’s College R178,523 R352 612 (49.4% increase)
Kearsney College R181,350 R350 130 (48.2% increase)
Bishops College R168,140 R341 430 (50.8% increase)
St Mary’s School R173,700 R335 470 (48.2% increase)
St Alban’s College R181,000 R328 920 (45.0% increase)
Diocesan School for Girls R157,590 R323 040 (51.2% increase)

Putting the most expensive schools in South Africa into perspective

What these fees cover

But, if your knowledge of life at boarding school only stretches as far as what you have gleaned from your favourite movies and television shows over the years, you may find yourself wondering what the high fees truly mean for the pupils who attend these schools.

First of all, Hilton College (the most expensive school on the list) finished strong at the end of 2023, with a 100% pass rate and a record number of distinctions per candidate, Michaelhouse (second on the list) achieved similar results, with a 100% pass rate and an average of 72% across all subjects. St Andrew’s College (third on the list) achieved a 99% pass rate in 2023, with 95% of the candidates qualifying to move on to Bachelor Degree studies.

These schools also offer a variety of extra-curricular activities, ranging from sports like rowing, athletics, rugby and cricket, to cultural activities and clubs like chess, debate, dramatics and more. There are also a few extra perks to attending one of the country’s most expensive schools, which includes added bonuses like state-of-the-art academic and recreational facilities.

What is not included in the school fees?

While it may seem at first glance that these high-priced boarding schools’ fees would cover any and all unexpected extras, it turns out that there are quite a few “hidden costs” that are not quite covered.

According to the Hilton College website, the school’s now, almost R400 000 school fees go towards tuition, food, board, games, minor medical attention, the sanatorium, library and laundry. Michaelhouse’s and St Andrew’s College fees seemingly only cover annual board and tuition.

This means that some parents have to pay additional fees – related to their children’s’ participation in certain sports, additional insurance, development levies, stationary and textbook purchases, additional transport and tours, remedial lessons, additional preparation lessons and more – on top of the annual school fees, each year.

How these boarding schools compare to government day schools

With all of the additional fees that are added on top of South Africa’s most expensive school fees, sending your child to one of the schools listed above, is the equivalent of purchasing a new car each year (the average loan amount for financed vehicle was about R359 000 in the third quarter of 2023, according to the data collected by TransUnion).

And, since most of the boarding schools listed above start accepting pupils in grade six, the cumulative fees over the course of six years, would be more than enough to purchase an average-sized property.

And, in the end, even South Africa’s most expensive government school, Pretoria Boys’ High School (which is charging parents R70 200 for the year in 2024) is still much less expensive than any of the boarding schools on the above-mentioned list.