Top private schools are bracing themselves for a slump in enrolments as the recession hits the pockets of fee-paying parents.
Independent schools spoken to by the Weekend Herald said some parents were struggling to meet fee payments.
Fees - excluding uniforms, levies, and deposits - can reach $20,000 a year at some schools.
And the global meltdown has already claimed one private school in Auckland.
Parnell's Montessori College told parents it was closing its doors at the end of the school year because it did not have the numbers to secure funding.
The school has been running for two years, but had less than 20 students enrolled at the end of last year.
Montessori Association executive officer Ana Pickering said the school closed for financial reasons, exacerbated by the credit crunch.
Independent Schools Association executive director Deborah James said at some member schools enrolments had been cancelled and students with drawn while debts were rising.
The independent sector believed that in times of economic hardship people set priorities and education tended to be high on the list of priorities, she said.
Many private schools refused to speak to the Weekend Herald.
Avondale College principal Brent Lewis said he had noticed a marked increase in enrolment applications from former private school pupils last year.
The fact many public schools now offered Cambridge qualifications as well as NCEA was also drawing parents away from private schools, Mr Lewis said.
Macleans College, Westlake Boys and Mt Albert Grammar School all attracted former private school pupils and he said it was likely that the number would grow this year.
Peter Gall, president of the Secondary Principals Association, said it was probably a bit early to tell how the credit crunch would affect private and public schools but he expected to see more movement when schools opened on January 27. King's College head master Roy Kelley said a number of students were withdrawn for financial reasons at the end of last year but would be replaced by those on a waiting list.
Some grandparents paid the fees, said Mr Kelley, and the collapse of finance companies may have hurt many of them.
St Paul's Collegiate School in Hamilton and St Peter's School in Cambridge - which have a high number of boarders from farming families - confirmed "tough times" for the private sector, with both their rolls down by 20 students.
The schools hoped they would be sheltered because many of the parents were dairy farmers, one of the industries that was holding up.
Auckland schools St Cuthbert's College, Diocesan School, Kristin School and Senior College also reported a slight increase in the number of students withdrawing at the end of last year but rolls had remained the same, or had grown slightly.
St Kentigern College said its roll grew by 100 students and had found no increase in student withdrawals.
ANNUAL FEES AT PRIVATE SCHOOLS
* King's College: Year 9 to 11 $19,340, Year 12 and 13 $19,872.
* St Kentigern College: $14,700 plus levies and fees.
* Kristin School: Years 7-10 $14,940, Years 11-13 $15,260.
* Senior College: $14, 458.
* Diocesan School for Girls: Year 1 to 6 $13,824. Year 7-13 $16,040.
* St Cuthbert's College: Year 1 to 6 $13, 408. Year 7 to 13 $15, 888.
* St Paul's Collegiate: Day student $14, 133, boarders $25,717.
* St Peter's Cambridge: $15,000 for a day pupil, $25,000 for a boarder.
* Montessori College of Auckland: Closed. $7650 plus donations.