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 as part of its online enrolment process.
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.
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. If you are accessing FEE-HELP and want to also access VET FEE-HELP (or vice versa), you will need to ensure you have enough of your FEE-HELP balance remaining to cover the tuition fees for your course.
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 and VET FEE-HELP. If you are accessing FEE-HELP and want to also access 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/New Zealand citizen. Can I get a HELP loan?
New Zealand citizens are not eligible for any HELP loans. A Permanent visa holder (non-humanitarian subclass) may only use a FEE-HELP loan if they are undertaking bridging study for overseas-trained professionals. New Zealand citizens and permanent visa holders are considered domestic students and will have continued access to lower fees through a Commonwealth supported place.
While some permanent residents and New Zealand citizens 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.
Q: I'm a subsidised student, can I get VET FEE-HELP? Do I pay a loan fee?
Students subsidised by the Victorian, South Australian, Queensland, Western Australian and Northern Territory Governments who are enrolled in Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses at an approved VET FEE-HELP provider, can access a loan. State and territory government subsidised students are not charged a loan fee.
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. You can enter your details into the eligibility calculator on the Study Assist home page to find out which loan you might be able to access.
Q: Which qualifications are eligible for VET FEE-HELP?
VET FEE-HELP is available for courses at approved providers at the level of: Diploma; Advanced Diploma; Graduate Certificate; Graduate Diploma. The Government has just implemented a trial to extend VET FEE-HELP loans to selected Certificate IV qualifications at selected approved providers. See the VET FEE-HELP page for more information.
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 13 23 17.
Q: How do I know if I'm a subsidised student (for VET students)?
A subsidised student is a student enrolled in a 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 VET provider.
Q: How does the Higher Education reform package affect me?
Please refer to the Higher Education reform package page for detailed information.
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 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 balance of my HELP debt?
You can view your HELP debt online via the myGov website. To access this online services please refer to the instructions on the ATO website (opens in a new window). Alternatively, you can call the ATO on 13 28 61. You will have to advise the ATO of your tax file number (TFN) before they will disclose any personal information to you.
Q: Can I receive both an AsiaBound grant and an OS-HELP loan for the same overseas study experience?
Yes. The Government does not place any restrictions on students receiving both an AsiaBound grant and an OS-HELP loan for the same overseas study experience. However, approved providers can choose to apply additional eligibility criteria when selecting students for OS-HELP assistance. You should contact your approved provider for further information about its OS-HELP policy.
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 the Phoenix Institute of Australian and have been informed Phoenix is ceasing to deliver courses from Queen Street, how does this affect my studies?
You should call Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) on 1800 657644 or email them at email@example.com for further assistance and information about the how the recent events may affect you.
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 understand that there are a number of changes to VET FEE-HELP being introduced from 1 January 2016 – where can I find more information?
A factsheet has been prepared for students that explains what these changes mean for students. See: Important changes to students accessing VET FEE‑HELP - December 2015
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: 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: What's the difference between the different loans? (HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP, 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 or VET FEE-HELP, one FEE-HELP limit applies. VET FEE-HELP assistance is generally available to eligible full fee paying students undertaking higher level VET qualifications (diploma, advanced diploma, graduate certificate and graduate diploma courses). Irrespective of whether a student receives a loan under VET FEE-HELP 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.
Q: How are students and apprentices who are combining overseas holidays and study/training affected by the changes to student payments?
From 1 January 2015, students and apprentices continue to be eligible for student payments while undertaking eligible overseas study/training or travelling to or from their place of study, however students and apprentices are not eligible for payment while holidaying overseas.
Q: What are the changes to payments for students overseas?
From 1 January 2015, the portability period for those on student payments (Youth Allowance (student), Austudy and ABSTUDY Living Allowance) was generally aligned with the rules for job seekers, so that students are no longer eligible for payment while overseas, unless they are undertaking approved activities such as eligible study.
Students remain eligible for payment for up to six weeks to undertake eligible medical treatment, to attend an acute family crisis or to undertake Reserve Service. Tertiary students still remain eligible for payment while undertaking overseas study or training that forms part of their Australian course or as part of their Australian Apprenticeship. Students and apprentices are still able to travel overseas for other purposes using their own resources.
The purpose of student payments is to assist students financially while they study with additional incentives for students to work while on study breaks.
Q: Why are students holidaying overseas ineligible for payment whereas students holidaying in Australia remain eligible?
The purpose of student payments is to assist students financially while they study. Additional incentives exist for students to work while on study breaks - such as the student income bank, which allows students to accumulate any unused portion of their fortnightly income free area, providing additional flexibility for students to take advantage of seasonal employment when their study load is reduced.
Students overseas generally do not have the same opportunities to work as those in Australia.
Q: How are major cities defined in assessing eligibility for the Relocation Scholarship?
Under current arrangements there is a distinction in the rate received by students from regional areas and students from major cities (metropolitan areas) who relocate to a regional area to study. This is legislated and is currently based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2006 Australian Standard Geographical Classification Remoteness Structure.
Q: What are the changes to the Relocation Scholarship?
From 1 January 2015, access to the Relocation Scholarship is restricted to students relocating to or from regional areas. Students relocating from major cities (metropolitan areas) are only eligible for a Relocation Scholarship if they relocate to study at a regional campus.
The measure continues to recognise the reduced level of course and institution choice in regional areas and the higher proportion of regional students who need to relocate to study, compared to students from major cities.
Students from major cities are more likely than students from regional areas to have a suitable education institution near to their parental home.
In 2015, the Relocation Scholarship is valued at $4,269 in the first year the student is required to live away from home and $1,067 each year thereafter for students relocating from major cities to regional areas. Recognising that they may have higher costs, students relocating from regional areas are eligible for a higher rate of $2,135 in the second and third year they are required to live away from home to study.
Q: Will students who have lost access to the Relocation Scholarship be without support to help them live away from home?
Students from metropolitan areas who are no longer eligible for the Relocation Scholarship as a result of the 2014-15 Budget measure will retain access to financial assistance to assist them with the costs of study, such as the higher ‘away from home’ rate of Youth Allowance (student) or ABSTUDY Living Allowance and Rent Assistance depending on their rental situation.
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 $53,345 for the 2014-15 income year.
HELP repayment arrangements include compulsory repayments made through your income tax, and any voluntary repayments you choose to make. If you make a voluntary repayment of $500 or more you will receive a bonus on the repayment amount. For further information, visit the ATO’s website at: www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Study-and-training-support-loans/ (opens in a new window).
Q: How does the voluntary bonus repayment work?
If you make a voluntary repayment of $500 or more, you will receive a bonus of 5 per cent. This means your account will be credited with an additional 5 per cent of the value of your payment. The bonus is 5 per cent of the payment amount, not 5 per cent of the total debt.
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.
Student Start-up Loan
Q: Has the Australian Government announced changes to the Student Start-up Scholarship?
Yes. As part of the 2014-15 Budget, the Government announced, subject to the passage of legislation, that the Student Start-up Scholarship would no longer be available to higher education students receiving student payments (Youth Allowance (student), Austudy or ABSTUDY Living Allowance) from 1 January 2015. Students would instead be able to apply for an income contingent loan, to be called a Student Start-up Loan.
Legislation to give effect to this measure was not passed by Parliament in time for 1 January 2015. On 26 November 2015, the Government reintroduced the Student Start-up Loan into Parliament as part of the Labor 2013-14 Budget Savings (Measures No.2) Bill 2015. The Student Start-up Loan was passed by Parliament and commenced on 1 January 2016.
Q: How will the Student Start-up Loan be paid under the proposed changes?
Students are able to apply for the Student Start-up Loan in three different ways:
- They can apply for the Loan for the relevant half year;
- They can apply for the Loan for the full calendar year (paid in two half yearly payments); or
- They can apply for the Loan for the whole of their course (paid in two half yearly payments).
Q: I have previously received a Student Start-up Scholarship, will I continue to receive it?
Yes. Students who received a Student Start-up Scholarship prior to 1 January 2016 and remained continuously on student payments (Youth Allowance (student), Austudy or ABSTUDY Living Allowance) will continue to receive the Student Start-up Scholarship as a grant until coming off student payments. They will not be required to repay any part of it.
Q: What is the repayment threshold for the Student Start-up Loan?
The repayment threshold for the Student Start-up Loan is the same as the Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) repayment threshold which is currently $54,126 for 2015-16.
Q: What is the Student Start-up Loan?
The Student Start-up Loan replaces the Student Start-up Scholarship and is available to new student payment recipients (Youth Allowance (student), Austudy or ABSTUDY Living Allowance) undertaking higher education. It is a voluntary income contingent loan which students are able to apply for to help with the costs of study. The Loan is paid a maximum of twice per year, generally at the beginning of each semester. Each Loan payment is valued at $1,025 (to be indexed from 1 January 2017).
Q: When are students required to repay the Student Start-up Loan?
Students are required to repay the Student Start-up Loan once their income exceeds the minimum repayment threshold (currently at $54,126 for 2015-16). Payment arrangements are managed by the Australian Taxation Office in the same manner as the Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) debts. Repayment of the Student Start-up Loan is delayed until after any HELP debt is completely repaid.
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. 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. 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. 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 Special circumstances for further 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.