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: What happens if I made an error on my Request for Commonwealth assistance form (excludes VET FEE-HELP)?
You have six weeks from the census date for the units of study in which you are enrolled to correct any errors on your application form to establish and entitlement of assistance. After the six weeks has lapsed, it is no longer possible to correct information to establish an entitlement. This six week period is not an extension of time for you to get your form in. You must have submitted a valid form by the census date, and met all relevant eligibility criteria. For more information, see How Do I apply?
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 left 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: 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: 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 use FEE-HELP?
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 am a full fee paying 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.
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 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 a permanent visa holder (non-humanitarian subclass)/New Zealand citizen. Can I get a HELP loan?
New Zealand citizens are not eligible for any HELP loans. Permanent visa holders (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 in Western Australia and Queensland, can I get VET FEE-HELP and do I pay a loan fee?
Subsidised students in Western Australia and Queensland who are enrolled in Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses at an approved VET FEE-HELP provider can access a loan, like South Australia and Victoria. 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 the provider you are studying at 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: 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: Has the Government announced changes to the Student Start-up Scholarship?
As part of the 2013 14 Budget the previous Government announced that the Student Start up Scholarship would be converted into an income contingent loan, to be called a Student Start-up Loan, for new recipients of student payments in higher education from 1 January 2014. Legislation to implement this change is currently before Parliament but was not passed during the Spring sitting. As a result, the Student Start-up Scholarship will be available to new students commencing higher education study in the first semester of 2014.
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 with your VET provider.
Q: What form will the repayment arrangements for the Student Start-up Loan take?
Subject to the passage of legislation, the Student Start-up Loan is an income contingent loan and will be repaid through the tax system, under the same arrangements as Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) debts. Students will only be required to begin repaying their loan once their earnings are above the repayment threshold (which will be consistent with the current HELP repayment thresholds – currently at $51,308 for 2013-14) and after their HELP debt has been fully repaid.
Q: What happened to the Student Learning Entitlement (SLE) system?
The SLE system was used to measure the timeframe that an eligible student could be enrolled in a Commonwealth supported place. As the SLE system was be abolished as of 1 January 2012, there is no longer a limit on the amount study a person can undertake as a Commonwealth support student. Continuing students need not be concerned by any limits formerly placed on them by the operation of the SLE. Students who have used up their allocation of SLE will now be able to re-enrol from 1 January 2012 to complete their studies in a Commonwealth supported place or undertake further study in a Commonwealth supported place. Those students who used up their SLE and have paid fees for a fee paying place and/or used a FEE-HELP loan are not able to receive remittance of the fees or a reduction in the FEE-HELP debt.
Q: What is a CAN?
A Commonwealth Assistance Notice (CAN) is not an invoice. It is a notice issued each study period after the census date to students who are using Australian Government assistance. For example, it is helpful for students to keep track of their FEE-HELP balance if they are studying in a fee paying place.
Q: What is a census date, and why is it so important?
The census date is the deadline for various requirements, including submitting your Request for Commonwealth assistance form for a HELP loan. If you miss the census date, you will not be eligible to access a Commonwealth supported place or a HELP loan. The census date is also the deadline for withdrawing from your study without incurring the full cost of your units or a HELP debt.
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 Student Start-up Loan?
Subject to the passage of legislation, the Student Start-up Loan will be a voluntary income contingent loan which students in receipt of Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY will be able to apply for to help with the costs of study. The loan will be paid a maximum of twice per year, generally at the beginning of each semester. Each loan payment will be valued at $1,025.
Q: What's the difference between a census date and 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 the day (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.
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: What is the balance of my HELP debt?
You MUST call the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on 13 28 61 to find out how much your HELP debt is. You will have to advise the ATO of your tax file number (TFN) before they will disclose any personal information to you.
Q: How do I check if my HELP debt is correct?
Within 28 days following the census date for your unit of study, your provider will send you a Commonwealth Assistance Notice (CAN) for that unit. The CAN will provide you with information on your HELP debt for that unit, including any loan fee you may have incurred (if using FEE-HELP or VET FEE-HELP). The CAN may cover more than one unit.
Your CAN will enable you to check if the calculation of your HELP debt for the unit(s) covered by the notice is correct.
If you believe your CAN is incorrect, you should give the appropriate officer at your approved provider a written request asking for the CAN to be clarified and/or corrected. You should identify the matters in the CAN that you believe are not correct and specify why you believe they are incorrect. You must submit your request within 14 days of the date of your CAN (or the period allowed by your provider).
Q: Is there a limit to how much I can borrow?
HECS-HELP: There is no limit to the amount you can borrow under the HECS-HELP loan scheme.
FEE-HELP and VET FEE-HELP: In 2014, the FEE-HELP limit is $96,000, except for medicine, dentistry and veterinary science courses (which lead to provisional registration to practise in one of these fields) where the limit is $120,002. The FEE-HELP limit is the consolidated total loan amount available to you under both the FEE-HELP and VET FEE-HELP loan schemes. The FEE-HELP limit is a lifetime limit. The FEE-HELP limit will not be reset if you have partially or fully repaid your FEE-HELP loan, or if your course fees are more than the FEE-HELP limit.
OS-HELP: For OS-HELP, the maximum amount you can borrow for a 6-month period in 2014 is $7,500 for study undertaken in Asia or $6,250 for study undertaken elsewhere. The maximum supplementary amount for Asian preparatory language study for a 6-month period is $1,000. Students are only eligible for two OS-HELP loans over their lifetime (the supplementary loan amount does not count towards the OS-HELP limits).
SA-HELP: For SA-HELP, there is no limit that you can borrow.
Q: What happens if I don’t want to use a HELP loan for a semester?
If you change your mind about wanting to use a HELP loan for a semester, you don't necessarily need to cancel your form. All you need to do is pay your student contributions or tuition fees up-front before the census date. This means that there will be no fees left to pay with a HELP loan.
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: Are there any penalties that apply if I do not repay enough of my HELP loan by tax time?
Students start repaying their accumulated HELP debt when their income is above the minimum repayment threshold for compulsory repayment for the relevant income year (even if they are still studying). The ATO calculates an individual's compulsory repayment for that year and includes it on their income tax notice of assessment.
Students must advise their payer if they have an accumulated HELP debt on a Tax File Number (TFN) declaration or Withholding declaration. Payers must withhold additional amounts from a student's pay once they earn $987 or more per week in the 2013-2014 income year. The additional amounts withheld by a student's payer are to cover any compulsory repayment that may be calculated on their notice of assessment for the year. These amounts are not credited to their account during the year, but form part of the 'total tax withheld' shown on their annual PAYG payment summary and on their income tax notice of assessment at PAYG withholding credits. The compulsory repayment will not be calculated until a student's income tax return for that year is processed, and will be calculated using the payment income threshold and repayment rates for that financial year. If they have not had enough withheld during the year, the amount to be repaid will appear on their income tax notice of assessment.
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 $51,309 for the 2013-14 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.
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.
Q: What happens if I never earn above the repayment threshold?
If you never earn above the threshold, you will never have to repay your debt.
Q: What happens to my debt if I die?
A trustee or executor needs to lodge all outstanding income tax returns on behalf of the deceased person, up to the date of the person’s death. Any compulsory repayment included on an income tax notice of assessment relating to the period before the person’s death must be paid from the estate, but the remainder of the person's HELP debt is cancelled. Neither the deceased person’s family nor the trustee is required to pay the remainder of the accumulated HELP debt.
Q: What is the HECS-HELP Benefit and how does it work?
The HECS-HELP Benefit assists eligible individuals by reducing their compulsory HELP repayments (and/or a matching reduction in HELP debt) through the taxation system. The Benefit aims to encourage particular graduates to take up employment in related occupations or to work in specified locations.
Q: What is the repayment threshold?
If you earn above the repayment threshold, you will automatically begin repaying your HELP debt through the taxation system. The repayment threshold is $51,309 for the 2013-14 income year.
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) left to cover your course. If you change your course or approved provider, you will need to complete a new form. See Applying for a Commonweath 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.