THE Singapore American School is selling guaranteed places in its classes for up to $300,000 - the highest among international schools here.
The school is targeting families or companies interested in securing places for their employees' children.
It has set aside 75 places - less than 10 per cent of the anticipated student enrolment - for the new school term, which begins in August.
Individuals who want to book a place have to pay $200,000, while companies have to fork out $300,000.
The money is a pure donation to the school: It cannot be used to offset school fees, which cost between $10,300 and $24,400 annually, or any other charges.
The American School is the fourth to offer places for sale, after the United World College of South East Asia (UWCSEA), Tanglin Trust School and the Canadian International School.
Several international schools contacted said the economic downturn has not had an effect on enrolment.
All say they have a long waiting list, despite raising enrolment in recent years.
Ms Beth Gribbon, the American School's director of communications, said yesterday that the wait-list has remained 'fairly consistent' over the last few months.
She did not give figures, but said there is higher demand for upper-grade classes, meant for children aged 11 to 18.
Like many other international schools, the American School has seen a spike in demand for places in the last five years, as Singapore's expatriate population has grown.
It expanded its campus in 2004, adding room for 900 more students.
But the extra places were snapped up, and it was filled to the brim within two years.
It now has 3,800 students aged between three and 18.
To cope with rising demand, other international schools here have also upped enrolment or announced ambitious expansion plans.
The Australian International School, for example, takes in 2,213 students now, up from 1,800 in June last year.
UWCSEA will open a Tampines campus in August 2010 with a target enrolment of 2,500 in five years. Its Dover campus, with 2,950 students, will continue to run.
The Australian International School also announced plans to build a new senior wing last October, barely three months after opening an extension for its preschoolers.
The other international schools which offer guaranteed places charge between $85,000 and $225,000.
Tanglin Trust has a two-tiered pricing policy: $165,000 for a guaranteed place, or $85,000 to get to the top of the wait-list.
The Canadian International School charges companies $150,000 for the first child and $130,000 for the second. The scheme is open to individuals as well, at $100,000 a child.
At UWCSEA, prices have gone up and single places now sell for $225,000. There is also a $350,000 price tag for a bundle - one place at its Dover Campus and one at the East Campus, which is temporarily located in Ang Mo Kio.
Places at international schools here became an issue of national concern when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned the squeeze on places as a 'constraint', and said the Government had stepped in to ease the shortage by helping these schools to expand.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore created a Select Committee on International Schools to look into the issue of places at such institutions for children of employees of its member companies.
According to a survey it conducted last year of 142 members and 58 companies, 93 per cent of respondents felt that access to an international school of choice was an important criterion for expatriates with school-age children to take up an assignment in Singapore.
A large majority - 79 per cent - of respondents felt their expatriate employees would not be willing to enrol their children in local schools if there are no places in an international schools.
Source: Straits Times - 10 Feb 2009