FAQs

Important notice - Higher Education reforms announcement

The Australian Government has announced a range of reforms to improve the higher education sector. These reforms will deliver a more sustainable sector, more choices for students and increase transparency and accountability in higher education.

For more information about how these changes might affect you, click here.

For more detail about the reform measures, visit the Department of Education and Training Higher Education Reforms webpage (opens in a new tab).


Applying

  • Q: Do I need to accept my enrolment offer before I apply for a HELP loan?

    Once you have received your enrolment offer, your approved provider will either:

    • include the relevant Request for Commonwealth assistance form (that you must return) in the same package as your other enrolment documentation; or
    • direct you to complete the Request for Commonwealth assistance form online.
    Either process will allow you to accept your offer of enrolment and apply for a HELP loan (if eligible - see HELP Paying my Fees for further information).
    You should contact your provider directly if you are unsure of which option applies to you.

  • Q: Where do I get the Request for Commonwealth assistance form?

    The forms are only available from approved providers. Contact the student administration/enrolments area at your approved provider for further information.

    From 1 January 2017, your VET Student Loans provider will ask you to complete an online version of the Request for Commonwealth assistance form which is known as the Government electronic Commonwealth Assistance Form (eCAF). When you enrol in your course, if you advise your provider that you wish to access a VET Student Loan, the Australian Government will send you a link to the online form. You will need to complete some particulars and submit this electronically. Please refer to the VET Student Loans information booklet 2017.

Eligibility

  • Q: Can I get a HELP loan for two courses at the same time?

    Yes, as long as you meet the eligibility criteria for the relevant HELP loan and are studying at an approved provider. You will also need to ensure you have enough of your FEE-HELP balance remaining to cover the tuition fees for your course and the amount of FEE-HELP, VET FEE-HELP or VET Student Loans you wish to access.

  • Q: Can I get a HELP loan if I’m studying part-time?

    Yes. As long as you meet the eligibility criteria and are studying at an approved provider, your mode of study (part-time or full-time) will not affect your eligibility to access a HELP loan.

  • Q: Does my income/financial situation affect my eligibility?

    No. HELP loans are not means tested, so neither your income, nor the income of your partner or family will affect your eligibility to access a HELP loan.

  • Q: I already have a HECS-HELP debt, can I get another loan?

    An existing HELP debt under any of the schemes will not affect your eligibility to access another HELP loan. The exception to this is FEE-HELP, VET Student Loans (and VET FEE-HELP). If you are accessing FEE-HELP and want to also access VET Student Loans or VET FEE-HELP (or vice versa), you will need to ensure you have enough of your FEE-HELP balance left to cover the tuition fees for your course.

  • Q: I'm a permanent resident. Can I get a HELP loan?

    HELP loans are generally not available to permanent residents.

    A Permanent visa holder (non-humanitarian subclass) may only use a FEE-HELP loan if they are undertaking bridging study for overseas-trained professionals. Permanent visa holders are considered domestic students and will have continued access to lower fees through a Commonwealth supported place (eg for a bachelor degree at a university).
    While some permanent residents may have used HECS in the past, the higher education policy was reformed in 2005 and part of the changes included the replacement of HECS with Commonwealth supported places and the introduction of the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP). HELP replaced all previous Australian Government loans for tertiary study. As part of these changes, the eligibility criteria to access a HELP loan also changed.

    Permanent humanitarian visa holders may access a HELP loan provided they meet residency requirements for their study.

  • Q: Which HELP loan am I eligible for?

    The type of HELP loan you may be eligible for will depend on your citizenship or visa status, the type of study you are undertaking (higher education or vocational education and training), and whether your institution is approved to offer HELP loans. Check out the HELP Paying My Fees page to see the eligibility criteria for each loan.

General

  • Q: Can I get Centrelink benefits if I am using a HELP loan?

    Using a HELP loan shouldn’t affect your Centrelink payments but you must call Centrelink to confirm. If you change your study load (from full-time to part-time etc) you will have to let Centrelink know within 14 days as this may affect your payments. For Youth Allowance, Austudy (or Pensioner Education Supplement), call Centrelink on 13 24 90. For ABSTUDY, call Centrelink on 1800 132 317.

  • Q: How do I know if I'm a subsidised student (for VET students)?

    A subsidised student is a student enrolled in a vocational education and training (VET) course of study for which the provider receives funding from the state or territory government. If you are unsure about whether or not you are a subsidised student please check directly with your training provider.

  • Q: What is a census date and how is it different to an administrative date?

    The census date is the last day you can submit your Request for Commonwealth assistance form (or the Government electronic Commonwealth Assistance Form (eCAF)) for a Commonwealth supported place or a HELP loan, or withdraw from your study without incurring the tuition fee or HELP loan for that unit. The administrative date is a date (occurs before the census date) by which your provider wants you to submit your form. If you miss the administrative date you can still submit your form, but you may incur a late fee. Not all approved providers set an administrative date. Census and administrative dates have to be published on your provider’s website

  • Q: What is a CHESSN?

    You will be allocated a Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Number (CHESSN) if you use Commonwealth assistance (e.g. scholarship, Commonwealth supported place, HELP loan etc). It is a unique identifier that will remain with you and it is allocated to you by your Tertiary Admissions Centre or by your approved provider when you apply for admission to a course. It helps approved providers and the Australian Government to provide information to you about the Commonwealth assistance you have used. You will be notified of your CHESSN in your Commonwealth Assistance Notice (CAN). If you have any questions or need any help with your CHESSN, please contact the student administration area at your approved provider.

  • Q: What is the 2017 Higher Education Reform Package?

    The Australian Government has announced a range of reforms to improve the higher education sector. These reforms will deliver a more sustainable sector, more choices for students and increase transparency and accountability in higher education.

    For more information about how these changes might affect you, click here.

    For more detailed information about the Higher Education Reform Package, visit the Department of Education and Training Higher Education Reforms webpage (opens in a new tab).

HELP loans

  • Q: It’s tax time! How much is my HELP debt?

    HELP debt repayments are managed by the ATO. For information about your HELP debt, you can call the ATO on 13 28 61 to request a HELP account information statement. This statement will show your HELP debt, the amount of indexation that has been applied to your debt, any repayments you have made, and the amount you have left to repay. The ATO will ask you for your tax file number (and some other personal information) before giving you any information.

    You can also view this information online by creating a MyGov account with the ATO. For information about how to do this, go here .

    If you want to check what your university/other education provider has reported about your HELP loan, you can access the myUniAssist portal to see what information (from 2005 onwards) the department has about your HELP loan(s). You will need your CHESSN to log in. If you don’t know what your CHESSN is, you can get this information from your university/other education provider.

  • Q: Can I receive assistance under the Endeavour student mobility grants or New Colombo Plan and an OS-HELP loan for the same overseas study experience?

    Yes. The Government does not place any restrictions on students receiving assistance under these programs. However, approved providers can choose to apply additional eligibility criteria when selecting students for OS-HELP loans. You should contact your approved provider for further information about its OS-HELP policy.

  • Q: Has the VET FEE-HELP loan scheme ceased?

    Yes. The VET FEE-HELP loan scheme ceased for new students on 31 December 2016 and was replaced by VET Student Loans which commenced on 1 January 2017. The Australian Government has made arrangements for continuing VET FEE-HELP students to access the VET FEE-HELP loan scheme. If you are a student eligible for the VET FEE-HELP opt-in arrangements you will need to advise the Department of Education and Training using an online opt-in form.

    For more information about VET Student Loans and the opt-in arrangements for VET FEE-HELP students, go here.

  • Q: Have there been changes announced to the FEE-HELP loan scheme?

    Yes. The Australian Government is proposing a number of changes to the FEE‑HELP scheme to protect the integrity and reputation of the scheme and introduced the Education Legislation Amendment (Provider Integrity and Other Measures) Bill 2017 into Parliament on 1 June 2017.

    The Government is also keen to ensure that all non-university private higher education providers only enrol genuine students who are academically suited to undertaking their course. Some of the other proposed changes include introducing bans on unscrupulous marketing practices and withdrawal fees, and ensuring students are satisfactory progressing through their course to continue using FEE-HELP (i.e. passing a minimum number of units). For more information, please contact the FEE‑HELP team.

  • Q: I am a higher degree research student. Will I be able to receive OS-HELP assistance under the new arrangements?

    No. You must be enrolled in a Commonwealth supported place (a subsidised higher education place) to receive OS-HELP assistance. Higher degree research students are enrolled in fee paying places (non-subsidised places).

  • Q: I am a student at Entamio and have been informed it has closed. Who should I contact to find out what I need to do?

    Entamio is not an approved VET FEE-HELP provider and was delivering your training on behalf of the approved VET FEE-HELP provider Study Group Australia Pty Ltd (RTO Code: 5806). Study Group has advised the department that they have made efforts to contact all affected students with information about arrangements to continue studying. Please contact Study Group at entamio@studygroup.com or on 1300 265 729 if you have not yet been contacted.

  • Q: I have already done some Asian language study. Can I receive a supplementary OS-HELP amount for that study?

    No. You cannot apply for a supplementary amount for Asian language study if you have already completed that study.

  • Q: I have already received OS-HELP assistance on one other occasion. Can I still receive OS-HELP assistance to undertake both overseas study in Asia and a supplementary amount for Asian language study?

    Yes. While you are limited to two OS-HELP loans over your lifetime, the supplementary amount for Asian language study is added to your loan for overseas study and does not count as a separate OS-HELP loan.

  • Q: I will take part in a study tour of more than one country. Only one of those countries will be in Asia. Am I eligible for the increased OS-HELP loan amount for study undertaken in Asia and a supplementary amount for Asian language study?

    Yes, if you are selected for an OS-HELP loan for overseas study and a supplementary amount for Asian language study by your provider and at least one of the countries that you undertake your overseas study in is in Asia.

  • Q: I'm worried my VET FEE-HELP provider might close. How does this affect me?

    The Government has arrangements in place to protect and support students in the event a VET FEE-HELP provider closes. This fact sheet provides guidance for students where their provider has closed.If you have particular concerns about your VET FEE-HELP provider, please call the Department of Education and Training’s Student Enquiry Line on 1800 020 108 for assistance.

  • Q: My provider has closed and I am not happy with options offered to me under tuition assurance

    The Government’s tuition assurance arrangements are in place to protect and support students in the event of a VET FEE-HELP provider closure. Tuition assurance gives currently enrolled students the option to complete their course at another provider or elect to have their VET FEE-HELP debt cancelled for commenced but uncompleted units of study. Your tuition assurance scheme will be operated by the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) or TAFE Directors Australia (TDA). In the first instance, any issues about the options presented to you should be directed to that tuition assurance provider using the contact details below. ACPET: acpet@acpet.edu.au, phone 03 9412 5900 or 1800 657 644 or www.acpet.edu.au.
    TDA: memberservices@tda.edu.au, phone 02 9217 3180, or www.tda.edu.au.

    If your concern is still unresolved, please call 1800 020 108 for assistance.

  • Q: My VET FEE-HELP provider has closed. What do I do now?

    The Government has arrangements in place to protect and support students in the event a VET FEE-HELP provider closes. This fact sheet provides guidance for students where their provider has closed. If you have particular concerns about your VET FEE-HELP provider, please call the Department of Education and Training’s Student Enquiry Line on 1800 020 108 for assistance.

  • Q: My VET FEE-HELP provider is in the media. How does this affect me?

    If you have particular concerns about your VET FEE-HELP provider as a result of information in the media please call 1800 020 108 for assistance.

  • Q: The ATO have contacted me saying I have a HELP debt. I’ve never studied/have paid it off. How can I check?

    A student cannot access a HELP loan for their study unless they have provided their tax file number (TFN) to their education provider. Education providers then give the Department of Education and Training data about your HELP loan(s). The department verifies and validates that data before providing it to the Australian Taxation Office(ATO). You can access the myUniAssist portal to check what information (from 2005 onwards) the department has about your HELP loan(s). You will need your CHESSN to login into the portal (you can get your CHESSN from your education provider). As there is a time lag between the census date and when your information on myUniAssist is updated, you will need to add any units you have recently enrolled/are currently enrolled in to the amounts showing on MyUniAssist if they are not already there. The information on MyUniAssist is itemised by unit codes. You can match these codes against the information given to you in your Commonwealth Assistance Notice (this Notice is given to you by your education provider). You can then create a MyGov account with the ATO to manage your HELP debt online. Your HELP debt at the ATO will include details of your HELP loan, the amount of indexation that has been applied to your debt, any repayments you have made, and the amount of debt you have left to pay. However, information here is listed as a consolidated amount for each study period. For information about how to create a MyGov account to view your HELP debt with the ATO, go here. You can also call the ATO on 13 28 61. You will have to advise the ATO of your TFN and verify your identify before they will disclose any personal information to you.

  • Q: What's the difference between the different loans? (HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP, VET Student Loans, VET FEE-HELP, OS-HELP, SA-HELP)

    HECS-HELP is only available to eligible students enrolled in a Commonwealth support place studying a higher education qualification. FEE-HELP is only available to eligible fee paying students undertaking a higher education award course. Irrespective of whether a student receives a loan under FEE-HELP, VET Student Loans or VET FEE-HELP, one FEE-HELP limit applies. VET Student Loans (including VET FEE-HELP - now ceased for new students) is generally available to eligible students undertaking certain higher level VET qualifications (diploma, advanced diploma, graduate certificate and graduate diploma courses). Irrespective of whether a student receives a loan under VET Student Loans (including VET FEE-HELP – now ceased) or FEE-HELP, one FEE-HELP limit applies. OS-HELP is available to eligible students enrolled in a Commonwealth supported place to undertake some of their study overseas. SA-HELP is available to eligible higher education students pay their student services and amenities fees.

  • Q: Will I be charged interest on my HELP debt?

    There is no real interest charged on HELP debts. The accumulated HELP debt is indexed annually in line with changes in the cost of living, as measure by the Consumer Price Index. Indexation maintains the real value of the debt. For further information see Interest and Indexation.

Repayments

  • Q: How and when do I repay my HELP debt?

    You are required to begin repaying your accumulated HELP debt when your income is above the minimum repayment threshold, which is $54,126 for the 2015-16 income year, $54,868 for the 2016-17 income year.
    HELP repayment arrangements include compulsory repayments made through your income tax, and any voluntary repayments you choose to make. For further information, visit the ATO’s website at: www.ato.gov.au/ (opens in a new window).

  • Q: How much will my repayments be?

    The amount you repay each year is a percentage of your repayment income. The percentage increases as your income increases, so the more you earn, the higher your repayment will be. The ATO will calculate your compulsory repayment for the year and include it on your income tax notice of assessment.

Withdrawing

  • Q: Can I get a refund of my HELP debt?

    If you withdrew from your course because you fell ill or because of other circumstances beyond your control, you may be able to have your HELP debt remitted under the ‘special circumstances’ provision of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 or the VET student loans Act 2016. For further information, see Withdrawing from study.

  • Q: Can I keep getting a HELP loan if I transfer to a new provider?

    Yes, but only if your new provider is approved to offer HELP loans. For VET Student Loans, you must also have remaining loan amount wihtin the cap for the course. If you are studying at an approved provider, you should be able to access a HELP loan provided that you meet the relevant eligibility criteria and have enough of your FEE-HELP balance (if applicable) remaining to cover your course. If you change your course or approved provider, you will need to complete a new form. See Applying for a Commonwealth supported place.

  • Q: How do I withdraw from my course/unit of study?

    To withdraw from a unit or course without incurring a HELP debt or forfeiting an up-front payment, you need to complete your approved provider’s formal withdrawal procedures by the census date. For more information contact the student administration area of your provider.

  • Q: What happens if I fail a unit?

    If you fail a unit you will still have to pay the debt for that unit, regardless of whether you attended any classes or will repeat the unit. If you undertake that unit again, you will be required to pay for that unit a second time.
    Note 1: If there are special circumstances that meant you were unable to complete your unit, you may be able to apply for a remission of your HELP debt under the special circumstances provisions. See the Cancelling* a HELP debt under 'Special Circumstances' page for more information.
    Note 2: If your VET FEE-HELP provider engaged in unacceptable conduct leading to your VET FEE-HELP debt, see the Cancelling* a VET FEE-HELP debt-unacceptable provider conduct page for more information.

  • Q: What happens if I withdraw after the census date?

    You will forfeit any up-front payments if you withdraw from a unit of study after the census date. If you are eligible for a HELP loan and you withdraw after the census date, you will incur a HELP debt (unless your debt is remitted under special circumstances). You may also incur a financial or academic penalty (e.g. you might incur a fail grade). For more information, see Withdrawing from study.

  • Q: When do 'special circumstances' apply?

    Generally, special circumstances apply if you withdraw from a unit after the census date because you become seriously ill or because of other special circumstances. Changing your mind or failing a unit are not sufficient reasons to apply for special circumstances.