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University HELP fee changes: Everything you need to know



How much more will you pay and how soon will you have to start?

The Federal Government has announced a series of changes to the HELP fees charged to all university students in Australia, which will result in students having to pay more for their courses and start paying off their debts sooner once they enter full-time employment.

These are the key changes:

  • Fees for university courses will rise by 1.8% each year from 2018 to 2021, culminating in an overall 7.5% increase.
  • The maximum fee for a four-year course will be $50,000. A six-year medical degree will be capped at $75,000. Government modelling suggests this will add between $700 and $3,900 to the cost of a typical university course.
  • Students will end up paying 46% of the cost of their degrees, up from the current 42%. Government funding will drop from 58% to 54%.
  • From July 1 2018, the threshold income at which HELP fee repayments will have to start will drop to $42,000. It is currently $55,000. The new number is even lower than a previous proposal to drop the threshold to $52,000. The $42,000 figure is 20% above the minimum wage.
  • At the lowest level, students will have to pay 1% of income towards HELP debts. For high income earners, the maximum repayment right will be lifted from 8% to 10%.
  • From July 2019, the threshold for paying off HELP debt will be indexed to CPI, rather than to average weekly earnings.

Here are the proposed new HELP fee repayment thresholds (assuming 2% CPI for the 2019-2020 numbers):

Repayment rateCurrent 2018-19 thresholdProposed 2018-2019 thresholdProposed 2019-2020 threshold

And here are the expected changes across a range of degrees (assuming a student commences in 2018 and completes their degree without failing any units):

DegreeOld costNew costIncrease
Arts (humanities) 3-year degree$19,700$20,400$700
Nursing 4-year degree$26,550$27,800$1,250
Teaching 4-year degree$26,550$27,800$1,250
Science 3-year degree$28,100$29,100$1,000
Medical 6-year degree$68,000$71,900$3,900

The proposals, which are estimated to save a total of $2.8 billion, are likely to undergo some modifications, since the government won't be able to get them past the Senate without securing agreement from either the Labor opposition or a coalition of several other parties. Previous attempts at changes to university fees have proved impossible to pass.

The full Federal Budget for 2017 is being announced on 9 May, and is likely to see additional details of this package outlined. Increasing costs for graduates is also likely to intersect with the problem of improving housing affordability, which is also a key challenge for the budget.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on

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