Debt complaints

The debt complaints page provides information about VET FEE-HELP and VET Student Loans debt issues and complaints, including complaints about providers.

Students with concerns about loans for higher education study (e.g. university study) should refer to Study Assist.

Normally a "debt dispute" is a matter that is between you and your provider.

How do I know where my debt came from or how much is owing?

By logging on to the myUniAssist portal, you can check how much you have borrowed (e.g. how much debt you have incurred). myUniAssistis a database that allows you to see the units of study that have been reported by your training provider, and the debt amounts.

myUniAssist does not:

  • show you how much you owe,
  • include any debts incurred before 2005, or
  • show any repayments you have made.

To log in to myUniAssist, you will need your Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Number (CHESSN). Your CHESSN is a unique identifier you will have for your whole student life. It is printed on your Commonwealth Assistance Notice (CAN), given to you by your provider.

If you can't find your CAN or CHESSN, ask your provider. If you do not know your CHESSN and cannot contact your provider, please email HEIMS.datacollections@education.gov.au to request your CHESSN, noting that you will have to provide additional information to verify your identity.

Your myGov account will show you how much you owe and any repayments you have made.>

If you don't have a myGov account, you can set one up following the instructions on the ATO website or you can call the ATO on 13 28 61.

I have a complaint about my debt - What should I do?

Where does my debt come from?

Look up the details of your debt using the myUniAssist portal (see information on how to do this above). Investigating your debt allows you to tell:

  • which training provider you incurred your debt at,
  • which year you incurred that debt,
  • what course you incurred the debt for, and
  • the units of study for which you incurred the debt.

Contact your training provider

Now that you know how your debt was incurred you will also know the name of the training provider associated with your debt. In most cases, the fastest way to resolve your debt grievance is to go directly to your training provider.

All training providers are required to have a formal complaints process. The provider's complaints handling process must accept your complaint about your VFH debt or VET Student Loans debt. A provider can cancel a VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt depending on the nature of the complaint.

If you are not satisfied with how the provider has dealt with your complaint, you can ask your provider to review their decision about your complaint. All providers are required to have an internal and external review process as part of their formal complaints process.

Check if your circumstances allow you to apply for a remission of debt under existing requirements.

Existing requirements include:

  • Withdrawing before the census date
  • Special Circumstances
  • Unacceptable conduct
  • Inapproprate conduct under VET FEE-HELP

Withdrawal before the Census Date

You should not incur any loan debt for units of study you enrolled in but formally withdrew from before the census day. If this has happened to you, raise it with your provider through its formal complaints process and ask for the VET FEE-‑HELP/VET Student Loans debt to be cancelled. A provider has the ability to remit or cancel your VET FEE‑HELP/VET Student Loans debt depending on the nature of the complaint. The provider's formal complaints process will provide you with a right of review if you do not agree with the provider's decision.

If you believe that your provider has not been helpful, you can contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman. Contact details for the VET Student Loans Ombudsman are available at www.ombudsman.gov.au/How-we-can-help/vslo.

Special circumstances

All training providers must have a process in place for you to request the cancellation of your debt if, after you started to study, certain ‘special circumstances’ occurred.

Special circumstances are not all circumstances but only those circumstances (such as illness or a motor vehicle accident) that are:

  • beyond your control,
  • occurred or worsened after the census date, and
  • prevented you from doing further study.

Please note you cannot apply for the cancellation of your debt because of 'special circumstances' for units of study that you have successfully completed.

Time limits apply to submission of applications for re-credit under special circumstances to your provider:

  • for VET FEE-HELP – applications must be made within 12 months of your formal withdrawal from the unit of study or from the end of the unit if no withdrawal occurred
  • for VET Student Loans – applications must be made within 12 months of the census day for the unit.

Your provider may give you more time if it was not possible for you to apply within the 12 month period.

If you think special circumstances may apply to you, you should check by reading and/or completing your provider's special circumstances form and submitting the form to your provider.

All providers are required to have a formal review process that applies if your provider rejects your special circumstances request and decides not to cancel your debt. 

If you are not satisfied with how your provider has dealt with your special circumstances request, you can ask your provider to review their decision. All providers are required to have an internal review process as part of their special circumstances process.

If you are still not satisfied, following an internal review by your provider you can then apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in your state or territory to have your provider's decision reviewed.

Unacceptable conduct

You may be able to have the Secretary of the Department of Education and Training cancel your VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt if your provider has engaged in 'unacceptable conduct' under the legislation. 

Unacceptable conduct only applies to:

  • conduct that occurred after 1 January 2016; and
  • conduct that falls within the definition of "unacceptable conduct' in the legislation.  For example, for VET student loans, harassment or coercion by a provider or conduct that is misleading, deceptive or unconscionable.

If you think this may apply to you, you should check whether the unacceptable conduct provisions apply to you by completing the Department's application form and submitting the form to the department.

Time limits apply to submission of unacceptable conduct re-credit applications:

  • for VET FEE-HELP – applications must be made within 3 years after the period during which you undertook, or were to undertake, the unit unless it was not possible for the application to be made during those 3 years
  • for VET Student Loans – applications must be made within 5 years of the census day for the unit, or within the period as extended by the Secretary of the department.

If you submit an unacceptable conduct application form to the department, the department will make a decision and inform you about that decision.

Unacceptable conduct application forms;

Inappropriate conduct under VET FEE-HELP

The Australian Government has introduced new legislation to provide a remedy for students who incurred a VET FEE-HELP debt because of inappropriate behaviour by some VET FEE-HELP providers (or their agents).

This legislation allows debts to be remitted if the conduct of the provider is determined to be inappropriate. The new remedy commenced on 1 January 2019.

For more information on the remedy, please visit the www.ombudsman.gov.au/How-we-can-help/vslo.

Lodge a complaint with the VET Student Loans Ombudsman

If you still believe that your issue has not been addressed, noting that you would have incurred a liability if you cancelled your enrolment after the provider’s published census date, and further action is required you can contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman at www.ombudsman.gov.au/How-we-can-help/vslo  or by phoning 1300 362 072.

The role of the VET Student Loans Ombudsman is to manage and investigate complaints regarding both the VET FEE-HELP sheme and the VET Student Loans program.

The Ombudsman is separate from the department and has its own legal powers to investigate and deal with enquiries and complaints.

Frequently Asked Questions

All providers are required to have a formal complaints process. The provider's complaints handling process must accept your complaint about your VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt. A provider can cancel a VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt depending on the nature of the complaint.

If you are not satisfied with how the provider has dealt with your complaint you can ask your provider to review their decision about your complaint. All providers are required to have an internal and external review process as part of their formal complaints process.

If your provider has not been helpful, or if the provider has closed and you are unable to obtain any information from them, you may wish to contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman to discuss the complaints process. Contact details for the VET Student Loans Ombudsman are available at www.ombudsman.gov.au/vslo

Please note, the Ombudsman will normally not commence an investigation of a complaint unless you have first tried to resolve your complaint with your provider. If you have not done so, the Ombudsman may advise you to raise your complaint with your provider in the first instance.

If you want to check your reported VET FEE-HELP debts by logging onto the myUNIAssist portal you will need your Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Number (CHESSN) to login. Your CHESSN is in the email or letter that you were sent.

You should not incur any loan debt for units of study you enrolled in but formally withdrew from before the census day. If this has happened to you, raise it with your provider through its formal complaints process and ask for the VET FEE-HELP/VET Student Loans debt to be cancelled. A provider has the ability to remit or cancel your VET FEE-HELP/VET Student Loans debt depending on the nature of the complaint. The provider's formal complaints process will provide you with a right of appeal if you do not agree with the provider's decision.

If you believe that your provider has not been helpful, you can contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman. Contact details for the VET Student Loans Ombudsman are available at www.ombudsman.gov.au/vslo.

When an education institute re-credits your VET FEE-HELP/VET Student Loans balance and remits the debt, the provider must tell the Department of Education and Training. Providers submit data to the department monthly. The department will advise the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), which then applies the revision to your tax records. Please note* there can be a time lag of some months between when your provider tells the department of the decision to cancel a debt and when the ATO removes it from a student's record.

On confirmation that your provider has submitted a revisions file** to the department, you may wish to contact the ATO area that takes care of HELP debts and advise the ATO that a revisions file has been forwarded to the Department of Education and Training in relation to your debt. If you have concerns you can discuss options available to you with the ATO regarding your tax matters.

Contact details for the ATO:

  • visit www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Study-and-training-support-loans/.
  • use ATO online services to view loan accounts and other information such as Payment Reference Number (PRN) and voluntary repayment options,
  • call 13 28 61 for information about your HELP account and personal tax topics,
  • call 13 36 77 TTY or 1300 555 727 TTY for hearing or speech impaired students, or
  • write to: Australian Taxation Office PO BOX 1032, ALBURY NSW 2640.

Please note, the ATO will conduct identification checks for your enquiry, so remember to have your Tax File Number handy.

Additional information about repaying your HELP loan is available on the StudyAssist website at studyassist.gov.au.

*The data on VET FEE-HELP/VET Student Loans debts incurred or cancelled from 1 January 2017 will only be transferred to the Australian Tax Office in late 2017 so the data will not be accurate until after this data transfer

** Due to a retrospective validation process applied to data reported by providers, this may result in the data being revised up to eight weeks after it has been reported. This revised data is then transferred to the Australian Taxation Office.

If you believe your provider has not been cooperative, you can contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman. Contact details for the VET Student Loans Ombudsman are available at www.ombudsman.gov.au/vslo.

All providers are required to have a formal complaints process. The provider's complaints handling process must accept your complaint about your VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt. A provider can cancel a VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt depending on the nature of the complaint.

If you are not satisfied with how your provider has dealt with your complaint you can ask your provider to review their decision about your complaint. All providers are required to have an internal and external review process as part of their formal complaints process.

If your complaint is about the quality of the course, the teachers or the course materials you should make a complaint to the National VET Regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority. There is information below about Australian Skills Quality Authority.

If the complaint is not about the quality of the course and your provider has not been helpful, or if the provider has closed and you are unable to obtain any information from them, you may wish to contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman to discuss the complaints process. Contact details for the VET Student Loans Ombudsman are available at www.ombudsman.gov.au/vslo.

If you want to check your reported VET FEE-HELP debts by logging onto the

myUNIAssist portal you will need your Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Number (CHESSN) to login. Your CHESSN is in the email or letter that you were sent.

Quality of training/student treatment complaints

As the national regulator for VET, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) is responsible for investigating allegations about the quality of training or student treatment by training providers. ASQA uses information from the complaints process to determine how it regulates certain providers. Should you have concerns regarding your experiences, you may wish to submit a formal complaint to ASQA via their complaints page.

Alternatively, you can contact the National Training Complaints Hotline on 13 38 73.

You should read the Tuition Assurance fact sheet on the Provider Closures page.

If you still have questions about the Tuition Assurance process, you will need to contact your relevant Tuition Assurance operator (that will be either the Australian Council for Private Education (ACPET) or TAFE Directors Australia (TDA)). Contact details for ACPET and TDA are on the fact sheet.