With VET FEE-HELP, pursuing career goals through continuing education can be a reality for all Australians
Australian students pursuing higher education may be eligible to have help paying the cost of their tuition. This is possible through the Vocational Education and Training Higher Education Loan Program (VET FEE-HELP). This program is solely for the use of paying all or part of a tuition, not for any other costs associated with continuing education. As a specialised loan, it's designed exclusively to assist Australians who are pursuing a higher education.
VET FEE-HELP is offered at the diploma, advanced diploma, graduate certificate and graduate diploma level. For a limited amount of time the program is also being offered to a select number of Certificate IV qualifications. This is a trial to determine the need and benefit of offering the loan to a broader range of students.
Who is eligible for VET FEE-HELP?
As an Australian Government loan offered as assistance in helping to cover the cost of tuition for higher studies, certain qualifications must be met in order for a student to be considered for the loan. The application is made through your provider, who should be able to provide you with the information and forms you will need to make the request.
Some of the eligibility requirements that you must meet include:
- Residency. This loan is only offered to Australian citizens. Permanent humanitarian visa holders may also qualify as long as they will reside in Australia for the duration of the unit.
- Continuing education. You will have to be a fee paying student studying for an advanced degree at an educational institution that has been approved by VET FEE-HELP.
- Subsidised students. If you are being subsidised by the government of Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania or the Northern Territory you can still qualify for the VET FEE-HELP loan.
- Course of study. Eligible classes are determined by census data taken for each unit. The provider will be able to assist you in determining if your course of study is eligible for the loan at that time.
What you need to know about your VET FEE-HELP loan
As VET FEE-HELP is a loan program, not a subsidy or scholarship, the student is required to make repayments over time to pay the money back. The cap on the amount borrowed is based on the type of study, rather than on the student’s financial background.
Key points about the VET FEE-HELP loan to consider are:
- Loan fee. For students who are not being subsidised by their state or territory government, there may be a loan origination fee of 20% of the value of the loan.
- Loan amount. As of 2014 the loan limit for a student who is studying medicine, dentistry or veterinary services is $120,002. For other types of studies, the limit is $96,000. The loan fee you pay will have no bearing on the amount of money available to you. Also keep in mind that this is the limit for the life of the loan, as opposed to a revolving line of credit where repayments would count towards the amount available.
- Interest. The Australian Government does not apply any interest to the balance of the debt for your VET FEE-HELP loan. It will be indexed yearly, and adjustments made to account for changes in the cost of living. This is based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) data released in March, and applied on the 1st of June. Loans that have not reached one year in maturity will not be subject to indexation.
- Prior debt. Your financial past is not a consideration when applying for the VET FEE-HELP loan.
How to repay your VET FEE-HELP debt
When you're required to begin repaying your VET FEE-HELP debt is dependent on when the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) deems you to have the necessary income. All debts are managed by the ATO and payments will be made directly to that facility.
If you are considering a VET FEE-HELP loan, make note of the following important points about the repayment expectations:
- Income threshold: For the 2015-2016 tax year, once you start earning $53,345 annually you need to begin making repayments on the loan.
- Repayment amount: The amount of your repayments will be a percentage of the amount you earned for the year, increasing as your income does. After calculation, the ATO includes the repayment with your income tax notice of assessment.
- Voluntary repayments: You are permitted to make extra repayments for any amount and at any time. This can be done using BPAY, direct credit, credit card payments or with a cheque. The repayment will be paid directly to the ATO and are considered an addition to those posted on your tax assessment, not a replacement. If you make a repayment of $500 or more you will receive a bonus of 5%.
- Deferred repayments. If you are in financial hardship and feel you cannot make your compulsory repayments, you can file an application with the ATO to have your repayments deferred for an allocated period of time. Your request will then be reviewed by the ATO.
VET FEE-HELP providers
There are a number of choices when it comes to tertiary schools that are eligible VET FEE-HELP providers. These can be universities, private higher education providers, courses through Open Universities Australia (OUA) or approved Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers.
If it is unclear whether the school you wish to enroll is an eligible provider for the loan, you can find a full listing of providers on the Study Assist website. The list is divided by Australian state or territory, making it easier to find a school in your vicinity.
Online Courses that offer VET FEE-HELP
There are accredited universities that offer online courses which qualify for VET FEE-HELP loans. Like with other tertiary schools, it will need to have received approval by the Australian Government as a qualifying institution. When searching for an online course, be sure to look for those which state that they are an approved Australian course provider.
The same guidelines apply when pursuing your education online as they do with physical institutions. These include the requirement that you must reside in Australia for the duration of your study, despite the course of study being offered online. The online institution will be able to provide you with the proper forms to apply for the loan and will assist you in filing them.
Applying for VET FEE-HELP
As an effort by the Australian Government to make continuing education an opportunity for all citizens, applying for a VET FEE-HELP loan has been made simple. Once accepted for enrollment by an accepted provider, they will either supply you with the forms needed to apply for the loan, or direct you to where it is located on their website.
Once you have completed the Request for Commonwealth assistance form, you will return that to the provider along with your Tax File Number (TFN). This must be done before the administrative or census date. Forms submitted after that date will not be accepted.
Common reasons why your VET FEE-HELP application will be rejected
- Residency status. You may be rejected if you're found not to be an Australian citizen, or if you're in possession of a humanitarian visa.
- Time spent abroad. In addition to the correct visa, you must reside inside of Australia for the duration of your course.
- Additional aid. With the exception of subsidies from the state or commonwealth, a student must be paying the tuition in full to qualify.
- New Zealand residents. Although exceptions have been made in the past, since laws were changed in 2005 New Zealand citizens have no longer been able to qualify for a HELP loan.
- Census Date. If you submit your application after the census date, it will not be considered. This date will be at least 20% of the way through the study period for that unit and will be set by the provider.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can the loan be used to pay for more than one course at the same time?
So long as both classes are offered by an approved provider and you have enough money left in your loan balance to pay the tuition fees for both.
When is the loan origination fee payable?
This fee is worked into your loan balance, but will have no effect on the amount available to you for your tuition costs.
Will Centrelink benefits be effected by a VET FEE-HELP loan?
This is dependent on the type of benefits you are receiving. In many cases it will not, but you should call Centrelink for confirmation.
How will I know what the balance of my loan is?
You can call the ATO to find out how much you owe on your loan. They will ask for your TFN for identity verification before releasing any information.
Where can I find a Request for Commonwealth Assistance form to apply for VET FEE-HELP?
Only approved providers have the forms necessary to fill out the application for this loan. This may be a printed form, or you might be directed to an online form, especially if you are enrolling in an online school.
While VET FEE-HELP is an innovative loan opportunity to help you continue your education, you will be obligated to repay it as your income grows. If your course of study and the tertiary school you are interested in are eligible providers for the loan, it is worth looking into.