More schools hire collection agencies for unpaid invoices

Summary

A marked increase in the number of schools turning to collection agencies for unpaid invoices from parents was seen last year, with 900 schools in Flanders resorting to the measure

€2 million in fees

One out of four schools in Belgium hired a debt collection agency last year to follow up on unpaid invoices from parents. A majority of the schools – some 900 of a total of 1,400 – were part of Flemish education networks.

It’s a notable increase from five years ago, when only 950 schools across the country hired an agency for the problem. The parents of about 12,000 children last year had to deal with a debt collection agency, particularly in the larger cities. The average invoice amounts to about €140.

“In most cases, the parents didn’t pay for meals, field trips or after-school care,” Sven Dereze of the Belgian Association of Debt Collection Agencies told Het Nieuwsblad. “Many parents think that schools won’t take action if they don’t pay, but that time is over.”

In secondary education, non-payment is seen mostly in professional and technical education, where studies often require the purchase of equipment. Student following hairdressing studies, for instance, must buy a set of scissors.

Schools last year claimed a total of more than €2 million from parents in Belgium. The collection agencies managed to retain two-thirds of that amount. If the agencies don’t succeed, the schools can still go to court over the matter.

Photo by Mira Neven / StampMedia

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Educational system

The Flemish educational system is divided into two levels: primary (age six to 12) and secondary school (12 to 18). Education is compulsory for children between the ages of six and 18.
Types - There are three educational networks in Flanders: the Flemish Community’s GO! network, and publicly funded education – either publicly or privately run.
Not enough space - In recent years, Flemish schools have been struggling with persistent teacher shortages and a growing lack of school spaces.
No tuition fees - Nursery, primary and secondary school are free in Flanders.
1

million school-going children in 2013

30

million euros Flemish education budget for new school infrastructures in 2013

11

percent of boys leaving secondary school without a diploma