10. Request for Commonwealth assistance forms

10.1 - Types of forms and who must complete them

Students who wish to be enrolled in CSPs, or who are seeking a HELP loan, must complete the relevant Request for Commonwealth assistance form (CAF) [HESA subsection 36-40(3)].

The department has implemented a strong digital-first approach. An electronic CAF (the Government eCAF) is provided for each of the four HELP schemes, and for the VET Student Loans scheme. Providers may either use the Government eCAF, or their own eCAF. If providers use their own eCAF, it must replicate the information on the Government eCAF.

The department will provide a small number of paper forms on request to providers for students who have limited access to the internet or other accessibility issues. If providers require additional paper forms, they should contact the department at HEenquiries@dese.gov.au, setting out an estimate and explanation for the numbers of forms requested. For any paper orders over 200 (per loan), a business case will be required to justify the number requested.

Providers are encouraged to enable students to complete and submit CAFs electronically [HESA Division 174]. Please see part 41.6 for further information on requirements for a provider eCAF.

Students must submit the relevant, completed eCAF on or before the census date for the unit.

If a student is unable to access the eCAF of the relevant HELP loan, they must submit the relevant CAF to the appropriate officer at their provider on or before the census date for the unit.

Determining student eligibility

The provider determines student eligibility for HELP. It is the provider’s responsibility to collect information from students to assess student eligibility prior to the census date. The provider must comply with privacy requirements when handling personal information.

Where a student has been incorrectly assessed as eligible for HELP, the provider will be required to repay the Commonwealth any CGS or HELP amount provided on the student’s behalf. 

Request for a Commonwealth supported place and a HECS-HELP loan form

Students in CSPs who commence a course of study must submit a completed Request for a Commonwealth supported place and HECS-HELP loan form [HESA subsection 36-40(1)]. Students requesting HECS‑HELP must complete the HECS‑HELP section of the form [HESA subsection 90-1(g)]. Students are required to submit only one form for each course of study in which they enrol as a Commonwealth supported student.

A student must submit a new form if they change the course of study in which they are enrolled. A student who is in a CSP and chooses to undertake some units of study on a fee‑paying basis and access FEE‑HELP for those units, must submit both a Request for a Commonwealth supported place and HECS‑HELP loan form and a Request for a FEE‑HELP loan form for the course of study.

Enabling courses and exempt students

Students who are in CSPs in an enabling course (see part 7.7), or have been awarded an exemption scholarship (see part 13.1), must submit a Request for Commonwealth support and HECS-HELP loan form for that course even if they have done so for a concurrent course of study.

Pre-2010 students

Pre-2010 students who meet requirements for grandfathering under HESA (see part 4) do not need to submit a new form to access these arrangements. A person who is a pre-2010 student, but will commence a new course of study, must submit a new Request for Commonwealth assistance form for that course.

Request for a FEE-HELP loan form

Students requesting FEE‑HELP (see part 31) must submit a completed Request for a FEE-HELP loan form, except those studying at a non-university higher education provider, or through OUA [HESA paragraph 104-1(1)(i)]. Students who choose to undertake a unit of study on a fee-paying basis in a course of study in which they are otherwise Commonwealth supported, and who wish to seek FEE‑HELP, must also submit this form. Students are required to submit one form for each course of study for which they are seeking FEE‑HELP.

Request for a FEE-HELP loan Open Universities Australia form

OUA students requesting FEE-HELP must submit a completed Request for a FEE-HELP loan Open Universities Australia (OUA) form. Students are required to list the units they will be undertaking in the study period.

Request for a FEE-HELP loan non-university higher education providers

Students enrolled at a non-university higher education provider must complete a Request for a FEE‑HELP loan non-university higher education providers form. Students are required to submit one form for each course of study for which they are seeking FEE-HELP.

OS-HELP debt confirmation form

Students requesting an OS-HELP loan for their overseas study expenses, or a supplementary Asian language component for study in Asia, (see part 32.10) must submit a completed OS-HELP debt confirmation form [HESA paragraph 118-1(1)(h)]. Students are required to submit one form for each request for an OS‑HELP loan (there is a maximum of two OS-HELP loans over a person’s lifetime).

Request for a SA-HELP loan form

Students requesting SA-HELP (see part 33.1) must submit a completed Request for a SA‑HELP loan form [HESA paragraph 126-1(1)(d)]. Students are required to submit only one Request for a SA‑HELP loan form for the duration of their course of study. If a student decides to pay the student services and amenities fee upfront, no SA-HELP debt will be recorded.

10.2 - Issuing the forms to students

When should the forms be issued?

All students enrolling for the first time in CSPs, or a course of study or unit of study that is eligible for HECS-HELP or FEE‑HELP, or wanting to access a SA-HELP loan to pay for their student services and amenities fee, should have access to the relevant eCAF at the same time or as soon as practicable as other enrolment documents. Students complete a new form when they change their course or provider. The OS-HELP debt confirmation form should be issued to eligible students after they have received a preliminary assessment by their provider and are assessed as eligible to receive OS-HELP.

Provision of student HELP information booklets

Eligible HELP students must be given access to the student HELP information electronic booklet (information booklet) for the relevant year, prior to completing and submitting any eCAF. Students must declare they have read the information booklet on their form.

All HELP information booklets are available for providers and students to download and read on the Study Assist website at Publications (HELP Booklets).

10.3 - Student submission of forms

Students must understand they are required to complete and submit their respective CSP/HELP form(s) by the census date.

When submitting a Government eCAF, the ‘submission transaction’ serves as the student’s electronic signature, and the student receives a PDF copy via email for their records. For a paper CAF, the student retains the student copy.

Students enrolled in a Commonwealth supported place or seeking HECS-HELP students

Students enrolling in CSPs are required to submit the completed Request for a Commonwealth support place and a HECS-HELP loan form on or before the census date for the first unit of study for the course of study [HESA subsection 36-40(1)]. Students who are eligible for a CSP, but not HECS-HELP, only need to complete the CSP part of the form. A provider may set an earlier date for submission of the forms for administrative purposes but, in doing so, must ensure students are treated fairly.

Students seeking FEE‑HELP

Students seeking FEE‑HELP are required to submit the completed Request for a FEE-HELP loan form, relevant to the type of provider they are enrolled with (see part 10.1). This must be done on or before the census date of the first unit of study for which they are seeking FEE‑HELP [HESA paragraph 104-1(1)(i)]. A provider, including OUA, may set an earlier date for submission of the forms for administrative purposes but, in doing so, must ensure that students are treated fairly.

Students seeking OS‑HELP

Students seeking OS‑HELP must submit the completed OS‑HELP debt confirmation form before the provider can make an OS‑HELP payment to the student [HESA paragraph 118-1(1)(h)].

Students seeking SA‑HELP

Students seeking SA‑HELP must submit the completed Request for a SA‑HELP loan form, on or before the day the student services and amenities fee is payable [HESA paragraph 126-1(1)(d)]. A provider may set an earlier date for submission of forms for administrative purposes but, in doing so, must ensure students are treated fairly.

10.4 - Signing forms

Generally, only the student receiving Commonwealth assistance is permitted to sign the form. At times, a provider may accept a form signed by a person who is exercising a legal power of attorney on behalf of the student.

10.5 - Checking forms and correcting errors

A provider should ensure students have completed the form correctly, including that they have selected all relevant boxes.

A provider must be satisfied that the details provided on the form are the same as details provided on other enrolment documents lodged by the student. If, for some legitimate reason, the details are not identical, but the provider is satisfied the details are correct, the form should be annotated accordingly. eCAFs cannot be annotated (see part 41.6) but providers can contact the department for advice if this situation arises. For providers using the Government eCAF, corrections needed after the census date must be managed offline, and providers can contact the department if this situation arises.

If a provider is not satisfied that the details on the form are correct, it should attempt to resolve the differences. If this is not possible, the provider must reject the form and advise the student that their form has not been accepted as soon as practicable.

There may be rare cases where it is acceptable for a provider to alter a form on the student’s behalf or ask the student to complete another form after the census date. This situation will be due to an administrative error on the provider’s behalf, where the student in not at fault and has met all their obligations by the census date. For example, where incorrect information is provided on the original form submitted on or before the census date and, even though the student has advised the provider that the information is incorrect, there is insufficient time on or before the census date to correct the form.

If a change is made to a student’s form, the student must be advised of the change as soon as practicable after the change is made.

Time limit for correcting forms

Students have six weeks from the census date for a unit of study in which they are enrolled to correct information on a CAF. A student must have lodged a CAF on or before the census date in order to correct the information that was provided on this form.

The six-week time limit only applies to correcting existing information; it does not allow for a student to submit new information, such as supporting evidence of eligibility. A provider must have received all such documentation before the census date and made a decision of eligibility based on what was submitted by this time. The six-week time limit does not grant additional time after the census date for a student to become eligible, nor to prove their citizenship.

If the corrected information is provided more than six weeks after the census date for a unit of study, the person will not be eligible for HELP for the relevant units [HESA section 169-35].

Students have an ongoing obligation to correct information that has wrongly established an entitlement to assistance.

If a provider is aware, or has reason to believe, that a student in receipt of HELP has provided false or misleading information in their application, the provider should immediately notify the department of the suspected offence and provide the department with a copy of the student's application and any other relevant information or material the department requests. The matter should not be discussed with the student unless the department advises otherwise.

10.6 - Retaining hard copies of form

CAFs are Government records and are subject to the Archives Act 1983 (The Archives Act).The provider must comply with The Archives Act and any disposal authorities issued by the National Archives of Australia to the department.

A provider must retain the provider copy of a paper form for the Government for a minimum period of seven years after a student has completed a course. Where state or territory legislation requires the provider to retain documents for a specified time, the provider should act in accordance with that legislation, providing the form is retained for at least seven years following completion of the course. A provider must also be able to supply a copy of the form to the department if requested.

If a student cancels their request for Commonwealth assistance, the provider must retain a copy of the form, as it is a Government record.

Storing paper CAFs electronically

The General Records Authority (GRA), issued by the National Archives of Australia, has been updated. GRA31 permits providers to destroy paper records (including original ones) after they have been copied, digitised or migrated from one system to another. This applies to any forms submitted by students on or after 1 January 1995.

In line with the Electronic Transactions Act 1999 (ETA), the provider must ensure that electronic copies are an unadulterated version of the original paper form and clear and accurate representations of the document signed by the student. The digitised version of the form must be maintained for seven years, as required by the GRA, or longer if this is mandatory according to other state or territory requirements.

Providers must have appropriate processes and authorisations in place to ensure the integrity of digitalised forms prior to destroying paper copies. Providers must also ensure that appropriate security is in place for any electronic records management systems storing the forms, and that the forms are able to be easily retrieved if requested by the department for student support purposes. 

Information on GRA31, and additional guidance about the disposal and digitisation of physical records, can be accessed at the National Archives of Australia.

10.7 - Cancelling forms and form validity

All forms, except for the OS-HELP debt confirmation form, are valid for the duration of the person’s enrolment in the course of study or, in the case of OUA students, the units the person nominates on the form. The OS-HELP debt confirmation form is valid only for one OS‑HELP request.

Students accessing a HECS-HELP, FEE‑HELP or SA-HELP loan are not required to cancel their form if they subsequently choose to pay their fees upfront. If full payment is made on or before the census date for the unit of study, the student will not incur a HELP debt for that unit (or study period for SA-HELP).

Students may choose to cancel their request at any time in writing, on or before the census date for the unit of study, or the payment date for the student services and amenities fee. Students may choose to cancel their request for any reason including, for example, the arrangement of alternative payment methods.

A provider should determine its own mechanisms for recording written cancellations and reactivations of the form.

10.8 - Completing new forms or multiple forms

Students are required to complete a new form if they become newly eligible for a HELP loan (i.e. if their citizenship or residency details change), or if they:

  • are enrolling in a new course of study
  • are enrolling in multiple courses of study – students must complete a form for each course
  • are enrolling with multiple providers – students must complete a form at each provider
  • are enrolling in cross-institutional study – students must complete a form at the home provider and the host provider (see part 15.3); or
  • change citizenship or residence.