Amid growing concerns over privately run schools increasing tuition fees for the academic year, some parents whose children attend Stella Maris Preparatory, a Catholic educational institution in St Andrew, say the new charges have left them in “an uncomfortable position”.
A July Jamaica Observer article reported Stella Maris notified parents of school fee increases in an email, stating that this decision was primarily based on the significant salary hikes given by the Government to public sector teachers.
According to the report, Stella Maris, parents or guardians with children enrolled in the school’s nursery or pre-kinder programmes are expected to pay JAM $142,500 per term as opposed to the JAM $95,500 that was required in the last academic year.
The fees for kinder one to grade six are now JAM $146,500 per term, coming from JAM $105,500. There are three terms in each academic year.
While noting that “this is an unprecedented increase”, the school said the decision to increase teachers’ salaries is necessary.
However, parent Lounette Whyte told the Jamaica Observer that the increased tuition fees are absurd and may end badly for the Roman Catholic Church-run school. She argued that given the current financial climate and its effects on parents, a smaller increase would have been justifiable.
“Now, as it stands, I don’t believe that a lot of the parents there can afford that high increase. I would understand if they had increased it by $10,000 or $15,000, but over $40,000 is crazy. We are not even getting a raise in pay,” she lamented.
At the same time, she told the Observer that removing her daughter from the school may not be the right move.
“Considering that she is going into Grade Five, I think it is going to be a little difficult to uproot her from that environment and move her somewhere, so we’re going to end up having to find the ways and means to pay the school fees. It is like they have a noose around our necks because it is going to be hard to move her. So, we are going to have to find a way, maybe find a second job or hustle on the side,” said Whyte.
Orion Aitken, whose toddler is enrolled in the school’s pre-kinder programme, also expressed disapproval of the increase. He said that while an adjustment in the fees was expected, the new costs are “in alignment with what most people are paying at tertiary institutions”.
“While I understand and agree that our teachers require better pay, there must also be some consideration given to the affordability of parents. A near $50,000 increase on the per-term tuition feels exorbitant, especially in a time where the cost of living is seemingly increasing month over month,” said Aitken.