A support group for rural families says the Government will need to consider helping with any extra costs parents may have if the price of school hostels goes up because of an Employment Court pay ruling.
More than 100 school hostels are facing a massive bill now that workers at two boarding facilities have won six years of back payments.
The Employment Court said the workers should have been paid the minimum wage for the hours they slept in the boarding facilities of Iona College and Woodford House in Hawke's Bay.
The workers' union is seeking the same ruling for all 110 school hostels and about 100 of its members.
Rural Women New Zealand executive officer Noeline Holt said it was already difficult for rural parents to get their children into education, and although she agreed overnight workers should be paid an hourly rate, the burden should not fall solely on parents.
"There are kids that have to go to boarding school, there is no alternative," she said. "If the costs are going to increase for the family, it may be that the Ministry of Education is going to have to re-look at the boarding allowance to make it more acceptable and affordable."
The Association of Proprietors of Integrated Schools and the Secondary Principals Association both said that would raise the cost of boarding and could make some boarding schools unviable.
Secondary Principals Association president Tom Parsons said worried parents and hostel owners have been talking to him about the decision.
"It's not cheap for what the parents are paying for those students to attend the boarding school anyway - so this will be an additional burden that may well be the straw that breaks the camel's back in a number of instances."
The ruling followed a 2011 Court of Appeal decision affecting sleep-over workers in the disability sector.