Strong Australian dollar offers education bargains overseas

The $A used to buy around two thirds of a greenback. It now buys around $US1.07, roughly a 50% increase in buying power. It's been similar with the pound sterling. It's more realistic to look at it the other way around however. The Greenback and to some extent the pound have drastically lost value while the better managed "colonies" (Australia and Canada) have remained stable. So an $A now buys a lot more in the USA and the UK. And that makes private school fees look cheap overseas. Australians are big users of private schools. About a third of Australian students are educated privately and for High School the percentage is even higher

Japanese yen buy a lot of Greenbacks at the moment too. Even though the Japanese economy is in a bit of a pickle these days, Japanese politicians are nowhere near as destructive as Mr Obama

FORGET Sydney's breeding grounds for the rich and privileged - if you want to give your child a shot at being a prince, prime minister or poet it's now cheaper to send them to Eton.

Thanks to a robust Aussie dollar, parents can now bypass Sydney schools like Knox Grammar and The King's School and send their young blue bloods into the land of future lords and ladies at top British schools.

The tuition and boarding fees of elite private schools such as Cranbrook, Newington, The King's School and The Scots College are now more expensive than their once more posh English counterparts - yet lacking the illustrious alumni.

Cranbrook can boast gambling magnate James Packer as an old boy, but Eton has the pride of the parade in princes William and Harry.

However, what local schools lack in old boy status, they make up for with value for money, according to executive director of the Association of Independent Schools, Geoff Newcombe. "The quality of boarding here is very different from what it was a few years ago," Dr Newcombe said. "Many kids have to board because they live in distant places.

"There has been an incredible effort to make their accommodation more like home. It's on a very different level from the English schools. Eton is pretty basic.

Annual fees for board and tuition at Cranbrook for a Year 12 student top $51,621, while Eton charges $46,137.

At The Scots College, board and tuition is more than $49,000 for access to its honour board, which features Hollywood film director Peter Weir and artist Brett Whitely.

But Winchester, the most expensive boarding school in England, costs just $46,686 and boasts cricketer anti-hero Douglas Jardine and Buffy The Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon among its famous alumni.

At Trinity Grammar the annual fees are $48,650 for an association with rock singer Richard Clapton, at Newington (nursery of chef Neil Perry and Wallaby captains Nick Farr-Jones and Phil Kearns) they are $45,432 and at The King's School (which produced Hollywood film director Bruce Beresford and former deputy prime minister John Anderson) they are $44,082.

Those fees rival the costs of top boarding schools in the US.

St Paul's in New Hampshire, which boasts among its old boys media baron William Randolph Hearst and US presidential contender Senator John Kerry, charges $45,000. Groton School in Massachusetts asks $44,266 and prides itself for the fact that most of the Roosevelts went there.

And Middlesex School in Massachusetts charges $43,809 and can gush about actors Steve Carell and William Hurt hurtling through its hallowed halls.

One of the cheapest of the best in the US is Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. For just $38,558, students can walk in the famous footsteps of author Gore Vidal, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown.


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