I noticed that there was a quite sharp increase in the Education element of the March CPI figures. This appeared to contradict what I had read elsewhere about the cost of education. I jumped on the excellent Australian Bureau of Statistics website and found that I could download figures going back many years so did a bit of analysis.
Here is the sum of the quarterly CPI percentage change for Education, and Education broken down into 3 sub-classes for the last 10 years. It is pretty clear that there is adramatic increase in Q1 and then not much movement at all for the rest of the year.
I dragged in the CPI figures for Food and Audio Visual and Computing categories for the same period and you see a much more standard spread of increase (food) and decrease (technology) prices.
So why might this be? Well the ABS not only produce these figures but they provide a commentary on them. In that commentary for Education for March 2009 they say
All education indexes rose in the March quarter, with the commencement of the new school year. Secondary education rose 7.6%, preschool and primary education rose 6.6% and tertiary education rose 3.2%. Secondary education was the main contributor, mainly due to wide-spread fee increases. Both preschool and primary education fees rose with providers reporting that rises were to cover increases in wages and other operating costs.
The commentary is almost identical for the same quarter for the last 3 years except in March 2007 this extra bit of text was added
The rise in tertiary education was due to rises in all tertiary education fees. Increases in TAFE and HECS fees were the main contributors to this movement.
So what is all this telling us? Well I think it is saying that as one would expect, the cost of education has risen over the last 10 years in a way that is comparable with the price of food but the difference is the hit comes in the first quarter each year.