It is considering a "school fee loan" scheme, private school group Curro said on Monday, for "selected learners" in grades 9 and higher in its schools.
The loans would take into consideration credit score and academic performance, Curro said – and available capacity in the class.
"A key goal for 2018 onwards will be the retention of learners," Curro told investors in its annual report.
"A detailed evaluation of all learners who leave is now being performed."
But Curro already knows two things: pupils who leave its schools do so "mainly for financial reasons (voluntarily or involuntarily"; and it is hard to fill up classrooms when older pupils leave.
Its major entry points are grade 1 and grade 8, Curro said. "When learners leave as a result of financial reasons from Grade 9 onwards it is unlikely that the learner will be replaced with a new learner."
Keeping classrooms full, at 25 pupils per teacher at its flagship schools, is key to Curro's business.
The new loan scheme "and other attempts to increase occupancy" may push up its bad debts, Curro warned investors – and those are already at record levels. In 2017 the company wrote off a net R31.2 million, or 1.5% of its turnover. That is an increase of 72% from the 2016 year, when net write-offs were stead at 1% of its turnover.
At the beginning of 2018 Curro recorded 52,233 pupils across its 145 schools, and it will soon employ around 3,000 teachers.
In 2017, its average school fee per pupil was R41,600 – but for some families the increases into 2018 were steep, at a weighted average of 9% but with some fees going up by 12.2%.
Curros fees vary from school to school, and grade to grade within the same school, based on factors that include demand for places.