31. FEE HELP

31.1 - What is FEE‑HELP?

FEE-HELP provides a loan to eligible fee-paying students to pay for all or part of their tuition fees for units of study undertaken with an approved provider under HESA.

Over their lifetime, a student can borrow up to the FEE-HELP limit. That is, repayments do not reset the maximum that can be borrowed under the FEE-HELP limit. A student repays their loan through the taxation system once their repayment income is above the minimum repayment threshold for compulsory repayment (see part 35).

31.2 - Which providers may be eligible to offer FEE‑HELP?

Approved higher education providers (that is, those listed in Table A, Table B and Table C of HESA, or otherwise approved by the Minister in accordance with HESA) are eligible to offer FEE-HELP [HESA subsection 104-10(1)].

31.3 - What does FEE‑HELP cover?

FEE‑HELP provides a loan to eligible students for tuition fees only (see part 29.1) [HESA section 107-1].

31.4 - Eligibility requirements

To be eligible for FEE‑HELP for a unit of study, the student must:

  • not be a Commonwealth supported student in the unit
  • meet the citizenship or residency requirements [HESA paragraph 104-1(1)(a) and section 104-5]
  • be enrolled in a unit that meets the course requirements [HESA paragraph 104-1(1)(e) and section 104-10]
  • not have exceeded their FEE‑HELP limit
  • have successfully completed at least 50 per cent of units already undertaken as part of a course of study [HESA section 104-1A]
  • be enrolled in the unit on or before the census date for the unit and remain so enrolled at the end of the census date [HESA paragraph 104-1(1)(g)]
  • meet the TFN requirements (see part 34); and
  • have completed, signed and given to an appropriate officer of the provider [HESA subparagraph 104-1(1)(i)(ii)] a Request for a FEE-HELP loan form (see part 10) on or before the census date.

A student is not eligible for FEE-HELP for a unit of study, if the unit forms part of a course of study that is, or will be, undertaken primarily at an overseas campus [HESA subsection 104-1(2)].

Citizenship and residency requirements

To be eligible for FEE‑HELP for a unit of study, a person must be:

  • an Australian citizen who will undertake in Australia at least one unit of study contributing to their course of study
  • for students studying through OUA, an Australian citizen who is resident in Australia on the day they submit their CAF in relation to the unit of study [HESA subsection 104-5(4)]
  • a New Zealand Special Category Visa holder who meets certain arrival and long‑term residency requirements (see part 29.3 and Appendix E) and who will be resident in Australia for the duration of the unit [HESA subsection 104-5(2A)]
  • the holder of a permanent humanitarian visa who will be resident in Australia for the duration of the unit; or
  • the holder of a permanent visa who is undertaking the unit as part of a bridging course for overseas-trained professionals and will be resident in Australia for the duration of the unit [HESA subsection 104-5(1)].

New Zealand citizenship

From 1 January 2016, certain New Zealand Special Category Visa (SCV) holders have been eligible for HELP loans. New Zealand SCV holders will be eligible for a HELP loan if they:

  • hold a current SCV under the Migration Act 1958
  • first began to be usually resident in Australia at least 10 years ago as a dependent child aged under 18 years
  • have been physically present in Australia for at least eight out of the past 10 years (meaning they first arrived at least 10 years ago as a dependent minor), and 18 months out of the past two years; and
  • meet the other eligibility criteria for a HELP loan under HESA.

For more information, see Appendix E.

31.5 - FEE-HELP course requirements

The course requirements for FEE-HELP assistance for a unit of study are:  

  • the course is undertaken with an approved higher education provider; and
  • it is an enabling course offered through a self-accrediting provider; or
  • it is an accredited course in relation to the provider.

Units undertaken as part of an enabling course – a course that enables a person to meet the requirements for entry into a course of study leading to a higher education award – may also be eligible for FEE‑HELP (see part 7.7).

Courses accredited as a VET course are not eligible for FEE‑HELP. Some of these courses may be eligible for VET FEE-HELP or a VET Student Loan. VET students are not covered in this document. For further information on VET FEE-HELP and VET Student Loans, see the department’s website.

A unit of study is not eligible for FEE-HELP if the Minister has determined the course or the provider of the course is one for which FEE-HELP is not available [HESA section 104-10]. Eligible students enrolled in a cross‑institutional program, undertaking fee-paying units at a host provider, are eligible for FEE‑HELP if the units count towards an eligible course with the home provider (see part 15.4).

OUA requirements

Students studying eight or more units of study through OUA must successfully complete at least 50 per cent of those units to be entitled to FEE‑HELP for future OUA units [HESA section 104-2].

31.6 - Bridging courses for overseas‑trained professionals

Eligible overseas‑trained professionals may request FEE-HELP for a bridging course to enable them to meet the formal requirements for entry into their profession in Australia.

Listed professional occupations

The FEE-HELP Guidelines specify listed professional occupations and the assessing bodies for listed professional occupations [HESA sections 104-60, 104-65 and 104‑70].

Professional occupations are those that are categorised as such under the Migration Regulations 1994 1.15 (I), and designated with a prefix numeral of ‘2’ under ‘Group 2 Professionals’ of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) collection, catalogue Number 1220.0, 2013, Version 1.2. ANZSCO is the classification system that allows the standardised collection, analysis, and dissemination of occupation data administered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Listed professional occupations are on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) or the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL). Only bridging courses related to the occupations in these lists are eligible for FEE-HELP assistance.

The Skilled Occupation List (SOL), administered by the Department of Home Affairs, is used by potential applicants seeking to nominate skilled occupations which are acceptable for permanent and temporary skilled migration to Australia.

Eligible bridging courses

Depending on the requirements of the profession, a bridging course for overseas‑trained professionals may consist of:

  • subjects or units specified in the assessment statement [HESA section 104-50] issued by an assessing body for a listed professional occupation [HESA section 104-55], as studies that, if undertaken by the person, will enable them to meet the requirements for entry to that occupation [HESA subsection 104‑45(1)]
  • occupation-related study specified in the assessment statement issued by an assessing body that, if undertaken by the person, will enable them to prepare to sit examinations needed to enable entry to a profession in Australia [HESA subsection 104-45(2)]; or
  • tuition and training programs specified in the assessment statement issued by an assessing body that, if undertaken by the person, would enable them to meet requirements for entry to an eligible professional occupation [HESA subsection 104-45(3)].

All bridging courses for overseas-trained professionals must either be undertaken on a non‑award basis or through Open Universities Australia (see part 7.8) [HESA section 104-45].

A bridging course is not eligible for FEE‑HELP where the study:

  • is for entry into an occupation outside of Australia [HESA subsection 104-70(1)]
  • is not a requirement for entry to a listed professional occupation [HESA subsection 104-70(1)]
  • provides training for occupations that do not require a higher education award for entry
  • is being undertaken as part of a course of study
  • provides standing beyond basic entry level to the profession
  • leads to any higher education award course, including postgraduate degrees; or
  • relates to general English language training including English language tests [HESA subsection 104-70(3)].

Study load limits

FEE‑HELP for a bridging course for overseas-trained professionals is only available for a person to the maximum of one EFTSL. If a course is over one EFTSL, it does not meet the requirements to be a ‘bridging course of study for FEE-HELP’. For this reason, a student is able to enrol in more than one bridging course of study, and access FEE-HELP for each course separately [HESA section 104-45].

Assessing bodies

Many professions, especially those that are regulated, require overseas-trained professionals to demonstrate that they meet the Australian standard for practice by undertaking an assessment of their skills and knowledge. Each of the approved professions has an assessing body to complete this function. Assessments may consist of interviews, educational comparisons and/or written or practical examinations. Regardless of the type of assessment, professions that require an individual to undertake a bridging course will issue an assessment statement.

Assessing bodies for listed professional occupations are listed in the SOL  [HESA section 104-55].

Assessment statements

An assessment statement is a written statement provided by an assessing body for a listed professional occupation that states the studies, examinations and/or tuition and training programs that a person needs to undertake to meet the requirements for entry to that occupation [HESA section 104-50]. The assessing body may charge a fee for the assessment statement.

A bridging course only qualifies for FEE‑HELP where the study relates directly to the assessment statement. Bridging students should be advised to confirm their proposed study with their assessing body prior to enrolment.

Bridging course fees

Providers set the fees for a bridging course. In setting the tuition fees for a bridging course, providers should keep in mind that FEE‑HELP is available for tuition fees only (see part 31.7 - FEE-HELP limit and balance

Over a student’s lifetime, they may use FEE-HELP to pay tuition fees up to the amount of the FEE‑HELP limit, which is $104,440 in 2019. The limit for dentistry[1], medicine[2] and veterinary science[3] courses is higher, at $150,000 in 2019 [HESA section 104‑20]. FEE-HELP limits are indexed each year.

The department publishes the FEE-HELP limit for each year on the department’s website..

This information is also published in the information booklets available from the Study Assist website.

Students may access up to their FEE-HELP balance for the year in which study is undertaken. Repayments do not reset the maximum that can be borrowed. The loan limit for FEE-HELP also includes VSL debt and any VET FEE-HELP debt.

A person’s FEE‑HELP balance is the amount of the FEE‑HELP limit they have not used [HESA section 104-15]. Any loan fee amounts or indexation of outstanding debts are not included in a person’s FEE‑HELP balance.

Providers should remind students to check their FEE-HELP balance.

The FEE-HELP limit is indexed on 1 January each year. If a person has reached their FEE‑HELP limit in 2017 and wishes to enrol in 2018 or later years, they will be able to access the difference between the FEE-HELP limit in 2017 and the FEE-HELP limit in the year they enrol.

Exceeding the FEE-HELP balance

If a student is enrolled in a unit of study where the tuition fee exceeds the student’s FEE‑HELP balance, the student will only receive FEE-HELP equal to the FEE‑HELP balance [HESA section 107‑10]. Providers are responsible for collecting the remainder of the person’s tuition fee for the unit.

Example

  • Tran has a FEE-HELP balance of $2,000. He enrols in four units with the same census date. The tuition fee for each unit is $600. The total amount of FEE-HELP to which Tran is eligible for the units is $2,000, even though the total amount of tuition fees for the units is $2,400. Tran must pay the remaining $400 up-front.

Students enrolled with multiple providers

Students who are approaching their FEE‑HELP limit, and who are enrolled with multiple providers or are enrolled in units, some of which are provided by OUA, must notify each provider and OUA of how much FEE‑HELP they wish to receive for each unit [HESA subsections 107-10(3) and (4)].

In cases where a student is enrolled in multiple units on the same census date, does not have enough FEE-HELP balance to cover all the units, and fails to notify their providers, the units for which they will receive FEE‑HELP will be determined according to the order in which data is reported to TCSI. Where a student does not have enough FEE‑HELP balance to cover a unit of study, the department will notify the affected provider via an exception report. Providers are responsible for recovering any outstanding tuition fees from students. The Commonwealth can only pay the provider FEE‑HELP up to the amount of the student’s FEE‑HELP balance.

Determining a student’s HELP balance

A commencing student can view their FEE-HELP balance via the myHELPbalance portal, once they have been provided their CHESSN.

For continuing students or commencing students who have previously accessed HELP assistance and already have a CHESSN, a provider can undertake an entitlement search at any time to obtain the student’s remaining balance. The balance will be calculated when the provider has reported the student’s record to the department. Calculating the amount of FEE‑Combined HELP loan.

A student can borrow up to the amount of the tuition fee being charged by their provider as long as this amount does not result in the student exceeding their Combined FEE‑HELP loan balance. Students may pay part of their tuition fee for the unit up-front to their provider on or before the census date and obtain FEE‑HELP loan for the remainder [HESA section 107-5].

The amount of Combined FEE‑HELP loan provided for a unit of study is the difference between the tuition fee for the unit and the sum of any up-front payments the student has made on or before the census date [HESA section 107-1]. This amount should be calculated immediately after the census date for the unit. A student’s Combined FEE‑HELP balance will be reduced by this amount.

Providers report a student’s Combined FEE‑HELP loan through the Tertiary Collection of Student Information (see part 36.1) and the Commonwealth pays the FEE‑HELP amount to the provider (part 42.3) [HESA section 110-1].

31.8 - Loan fee and amount of Combined FEE-HELP loan debt

Loan fees apply to Combined FEE-HELP loans. If a student accesses a Combined FEE-HELP loan for a unit of study that forms part of an undergraduate course of study, the amount of the Combined FEE-HELP loan debt is the amount of the loan plus 25 per cent [HESA subsection 137-10(2)] and is incurred by the student immediately after the census date for the unit.

The following do not form part of an undergraduate course of study and do not attract the 25 per cent loan fee:

  • enabling courses to assist students to meet the requirements for entry into an award program (see part 7.7)
  • undergraduate study undertaken through a Table B provider
  • units made available by providers and accessed through OUA
  • postgraduate courses of study, including higher degrees by research (see part 7.6); and
  • bridging courses for overseas-trained professionals.

The loan fee is not included in a person’s FEE‑HELP balance, and is repaid through the ATO.

Example

  • Pablo is enrolled in an eligible undergraduate course of study and has requested Combined FEE‑HELP loan for the course. Pablo’s tuition fees total $2,000 and he has paid $1,000 up-front to his provider.
  • The amount of Pablo’s Combined FEE-HELP loan is $1,000 and this is the amount by which his FEE‑Combined HELP balance is reduced. The amount of Pablo’s FEE-HELP debt will be $1,000 x 1.25 = $1,250. This is the amount he will be required to repay through the ATO.

31.9 - Issuing a CAN

Providers must issue each student who has requested Combined FEE-HELP loan with a CAN (see parts 11.1 and 11.3). The CAN must be sent to all students who have requested a Combined FEE‑HELP loan after each census date, even if a student has made a full up-front payment of their tuition fees and, therefore, has not incurred a Combined FEE‑HELP debt on that census date.

31.10 - Withdrawing on or before the census date

Students who withdraw from their unit of study or course of study on or before the census date will not incur a Combined FEE‑HELP debt. Providers must ensure the information they give to the department is timely and accurate so that students who have formally withdrawn from a unit or course on or before the census date do not incur a Combined FEE‑HELP debt for those studies. As per the HEP Guidelines, the procedures for a student to withdraw from a unit of study or a course of study must be published and must not involve financial, administrative or other barriers to the withdrawal.

31.11 - Withdrawing after the census date

Students who have requested a Combined FEE-HELP loan and who withdraw from a unit of study or course of study after the census date will incur a Combined FEE‑HELP debt for any unpaid tuition fees up to their FEE‑Combined HELP balance.

In special circumstances, students may apply to their provider to have their Combined FEE‑HELP balance re‑credited, and thus their Combined FEE‑HELP debt remitted (see part 42.1[HESA sections 104-25 and 104-30].

31.12 - Cancellation of units of study after the census date

If a unit becomes unavailable after the census date, wherever possible, the provider should attempt to make suitable arrangements for the affected students to complete the unit or a comparable unit. In making these arrangements, the provider must treat students fairly [HESA section 19-30]. If arrangements cannot be made with which the student is satisfied, the provider should advise the student of their eligibility for re‑crediting and remission (see part 42.3) [HESA section 104-42], and in the case of non-Table A providers, whether they are eligible under any tuition assurance arrangements the provider has in place. For further information on tuition assurance arrangements, see chapter 2 of the HEP Guidelines.

31.13 - Repaying Combined FEE-HELP debt

A person’s Combined FEE-HELP debt is part of their accumulated HELP debt recorded by the ATO. People repay their accumulated HELP debt through the taxation system once their repayment income reaches the minimum repayment threshold for compulsory repayments (see part 35.1). They may also make voluntary repayments to the ATO (see part 35.2).

31.14 - Tax deductibility of tuition fees paid through FEE‑HELP

Students may be eligible for a tax deduction for the amount of their tuition fees for which they receive Combined FEE‑HELP loan if the study meets the requirements for self-education expenses. The loan fee is, however, not tax deductible. For further advice on the tax deductibility of tuition fees, contact the ATO.

 

[1]    A course of study in dentistry means a course of study, completion of which would satisfy the minimum academic requirements for registration as a dentist by an authority of a state, a territory or the Commonwealth, regardless of whether further dentistry study is completed before registration is sought.

[2]    A course of study in medicine means a course of study, completion of which would allow provisional registration as a medical practitioner by an authority of a state, a territory or the Commonwealth.

[3]    A course of study in veterinary science means a course of study, completion of which would satisfy the minimum academic requirements for registration as a veterinary surgeon or veterinary practitioner by an authority of a state, a territory or the Commonwealth, regardless of whether further veterinary science study is completed before registration is sought.