32. OS HELP

32.1 - What is OS‑HELP?

OS-HELP provides financial assistance to eligible Commonwealth supported students (see part 21) to undertake part of their course of study overseas. OS‑HELP may be used to cover expenses associated with the overseas study, such as airfares, accommodation and other travel or settling expenses.

32.2 - How OS-HELP works

The process for granting OS-HELP to a student is set out as follows:

  • the Commonwealth allocates a number of OS-HELP loans to each provider [HESA subsection 164‑10].
  • each provider runs its own application and selection process and selects students to receive an OS-HELP loan in accordance with its OS-HELP policy
  • selected students complete an OS-HELP debt confirmation form and providers pay, on the Commonwealth’s behalf, an OS-HELP loan amount to each of their selected students.  The Commonwealth makes payments to the provider on account of amounts the provider pays to students on the Commonwealth’s behalf [HESA section 124-1]
  • students receive a CAN within 28 days of the date on which the OS‑HELP debt was incurred
  • each provider records information on students who received an OS-HELP loan and the amount of OS-HELP that each student received
  • providers report this information to the department annually
  • the department provides information on OS-HELP debts to the ATO
  • the department pays the provider on account of amounts the provider paid; and
  • providers must not select students for receipt of OS-HELP assistance outside the amount allocated by the department [HESA subsection 118-15(4)]

For further information, see the OS-HELP Guidelines 2013 (OS-HELP Guidelines).

32.3 - Allocating OS-HELP to providers

Annual request round

In September each year, the department invites the Vice-Chancellor or Chief Executive Officer, or equivalent, of each Table A provider that has been allocated CSPs (see part 21) to provide an estimate the number of students who will apply for OS-HELP assistance for the following year. Providers submit an estimate of loans for overseas study undertaken in Asia and loans for overseas study not undertaken in Asia, as well as supplementary amounts for Asian language study.

If the aggregate number of loans for overseas study (i.e. for overseas study undertaken in Asia and for overseas study not undertaken in Asia) requested by providers is less than or equal to the number of loans for overseas study available for that year, then each provider will likely receive the allocation it requested. If the aggregate number of loans for overseas study requested by providers is greater than the number of loans for overseas study available for that year, then the department will allocate loans among providers taking into account the number of remaining loans available and eligible load across providers.

The department will advise the institutional OS-HELP manager, as nominated by the vice‑chancellor or Chief Executive Officer, of the allocation of OS-HELP loans for overseas study once the annual request round has been finalised. A provider cannot select a greater number of students for OS-HELP assistance than the number advised by the department, even if the provider has a sufficient amount of funding to do so. Supplementary amounts for Asian language study do not count towards the number of loans allocated to a provider, as these are not considered to be a separate loan.

OS-HELP loans remaining from the annual request round may be allocated to providers in response to additional requests for loans.

Additional requests

If a provider expects that it will not have enough OS-HELP loans to meet expected student demand in a particular year, it can request an additional allocation of OS-HELP loans at any time. Such a request will only be valid if it is sent to the FEP@dese.gov.au mailbox by, or copied to, the institutional OS-HELP manager or the vice-chancellor or chief executive officer.

Additional loans are allocated to providers in the order that valid requests are received by the department until there are no loans remaining. The department will advise whether the request for additional loans is approved. Providers must not select students to receive OS-HELP loans in expectation of receiving an additional allocation.

Funding for loans

Each provider will receive OS-HELP funding based on the total number of loans for overseas study it is allocated, valued at the maximum possible amount a student may borrow. For 2020, this is $9,399, comprising $8,295 for the maximum possible loan amount for overseas study (in Asia) plus $1,104 for the maximum possible supplementary amount for Asian language study. The maximum possible loan amount for overseas study not in Asia is $6,913.

Payments to providers

Providers are paid 50 per cent of the OS-HELP funding for a year as an advance in January of that year, and the remaining 50 per cent is paid in July. Should a request for additional loans be approved, the provider will not be advanced the additional funding outside of these payment times.

32.4 - OS-HELP eligibility

To be eligible for OS-HELP assistance for overseas study in relation to a six-month study period, a student must:

  • be an Australian citizen, the holder of a permanent humanitarian visa, or a New Zealand Special Category Visa (SCV) holder who meets the eligibility criteria for long-term residency requirements outlined in Appendix E
  • not have received OS-HELP assistance for overseas study on more than one other occasion (not including supplementary amounts for Asian language study)
  • be enrolled in an accredited course of study with their Australian provider
  • have already completed at least one EFTSL of study in Australia that counts towards their course of study as a Commonwealth supported student
  • have their overseas study count towards the course of study they are enrolled in with their Australian provider
  • on completion of that overseas study, have at least 0.125 EFTSL of study remaining to be undertaken with the Australian provider to complete their course
  • meet the TFN requirements (see part 34)
  • successfully submit an OS-HELP debt confirmation form (see part 10.1)
  • be selected by their Australian provider to receive an OS-HELP loan
  • not have been granted an OS-HELP loan by another provider for an overlapping six‑month study period; and
  • not have completed the overseas study before making the application for an OS‑HELP loan.

To be entitled to a supplementary amount for Asian language study in relation to a six-month study period a student must:

  • be selected for OS-HELP assistance for overseas study in relation to that six-month period
  • be undertaking the overseas study in Asia
  • have applied to their home provider for a supplementary amount for language study in relation to that six-month study period
  • be selected by their Australian provider to receive a supplementary amount for Asian language study, which does not form part of the course of study for which the student is receiving Commonwealth assistance.

A person (other than a New Zealand SCV holder who does not have an SCV due to being outside Australia) may be outside Australia when they apply for an OS-HELP loan [HESA sections 118-1, 118-5 and 118-10].

A student’s OS-HELP eligibility is to be assessed by a provider at the time the application is made. Once a student has met the eligibility criteria for OS-HELP under HESA Division 118, and the provider has assessed the student as eligible for assistance, the OS-HELP loan is granted. Once the student has been paid, the student cannot subsequently be assessed as ineligible as a result of changed circumstances that did not exist at the time the OS‑HELP application was made.

However, if a provider has offered OS-HELP to a student whom it determines will not meet the provisions for eligibility, and has not yet paid the OS-HELP amount to the student, the provider must withdraw the offer of OS-HELP [OS-HELP Guidelines chapter 3].

If a student who has accessed OS-HELP seeks to continue their study overseas, it will be up to the Australian provider to determine whether the student will be allowed to complete further study in their course overseas.

32.5 - OS-HELP and New Zealand SCV holders

An eligible New Zealand SCV holder may access OS-HELP if they are resident in Australia at the time they apply for OS-HELP and meet all other eligibility requirements. An eligible SCV holder will be paid their OS-HELP loan amount before they leave Australia. Once the student has been deemed eligible by their provider and has been paid their OS-HELP loan amount while in Australia, the student cannot subsequently be assessed as ineligible as a result of their SCV ceasing once they leave Australia.

Please note that if a student wishes to apply for a second OS-HELP loan, they must be resident in Australia at the time of application, as they cannot hold an SCV while overseas.

Note: continuing New Zealand CSP students who are eligible and wish to access an OS-HELP loan, will be required to complete both an OS-HELP debt confirmation form and an OS-HELP addendum, if they have not completed a HECS-HELP addendum.

New Zealand citizenship

From 1 January 2016, certain New Zealand Special Category Visa (SCV) holders are eligible for HELP loans.

For further information, see Appendix E.

32.6 - OS-HELP and honours

Where a student is undertaking an honours component of an undergraduate course of study, the entire undergraduate course may be considered when assessing eligibility for OS‑HELP.

As well as needing to meet the broader eligibility requirements, it is important to note that the student is required to have 0.125 EFTSL remaining, to be completed in Australia, at the conclusion of their overseas study.

Example

  • Vyjanti is invited to complete an honours component of her Bachelor of Arts course of study at the end of 2017. In 2018, she commences honours study towards the undergraduate higher education award Bachelor of Arts with honours. In early 2018 she is selected for OS‑HELP. Her undergraduate study in 2017 counts towards the prior study requirements.

32.7 - Determining OS‑HELP eligibility

A provider must not select a student for OS-HELP unless the provider is satisfied the student meets all the eligibility criteria in HESA Division 118.

Students undertaking their first or second discrete six-month study period

To be satisfied that a student meets the eligibility criteria, a provider should conduct its selection exercise as close to the commencement of a student’s proposed six‑month study period as possible. A student should not be selected for OS-HELP more than six months before the commencement of their overseas study.

If a provider decides to undertake selection procedures for OS-HELP more than six months in advance of students commencing their six-month study period, the department recommends that the provider only provisionally selects the student. The provider should confirm the student’s eligibility closer to the commencement of the student’s six-month study period in order to finalise the selection.

Students undertaking a second six-month study period that is a continuation of a first

A provider may provisionally select a student to receive a second OS-HELP loan for a six‑month study period that is a continuation of the first six-month study period. The student may apply for the two loans concurrently, that is, before the student commences the first six‑month study period. However, the provider may only provisionally select a student to receive OS-HELP for the second six‑month study period. The provider must determine, on a date that is not more than six weeks before the commencement of the second six‑month period, whether the student still meets the eligibility criteria [OS‑HELP Guidelines chapter 2].

Students who have commenced their overseas study

A provider may select a student for OS-HELP if they have already commenced their overseas study if that student meets all of the eligibility criteria and such a selection is consistent with the provider’s OS-HELP policy. This means that a student may be eligible for OS-HELP if the student is already overseas when applying. However, a provider must not select a student to receive OS‑HELP for overseas study if the student has completed or discontinued the overseas study for which the OS‑HELP is being sought, regardless of whether the student is still overseas or has returned to Australia. The OS-HELP loan must be approved before the end date of the student’s overseas study [HESA subsection 118-2(b)].

Students who have commenced their Asian language study

A provider may select a student for a supplementary amount for Asian language study if the student has already commenced their Asian language study, provided the student meets all of the eligibility criteria and such a selection is consistent with the provider’s OS‑HELP policy (see part 32.13). However, a provider must not select a student to receive a supplementary amount if the student has completed or discontinued the Asian language study for which a supplementary amount is being sought prior to or at the time that the student applies [HESA subsection 118-2(2)].

Meeting the 0.125 EFTSL requirement

Under HESA, a student who has completed the study they have arranged to do outside Australia ‘will have to complete units of study that have a total EFTSL value of at least 0.125 EFTSL in order to complete the course requirements for [their] course of study’ [HESA paragraph 118-1(1)(f)].

It is the intention of this provision of HESA that a student will have a reasonable portion of study remaining that needs to be completed on their return to Australia, regardless of whether it occurs in a subsequent study period or the same study period. However, it is up to the provider to be satisfied that the student meets the eligibility requirements in HESA and that the student’s application is in accordance with its OS-HELP policy. The 0.125 EFTSL of study to be completed on conclusion of the student’s overseas study could comprise of exams, submitting assessment, or attending classes in Australia.

Meeting the one EFTSL requirement

Under HESA, a student meets the prior study requirements to access an OS-HELP loan if they have ‘completed units of study in Australia that have a total EFTSL value of at least one EFTSL’ [HESA section 118-7].

A student would be deemed to have ‘completed units of study’ if they have submitted, been assessed, and the provider has awarded a grade for units of study that make up the required one EFTSL. The student must not have anything further to complete. A student cannot be deemed to have ‘completed units of study’ if they still have exams or assessments left to complete or submit, for which a grade is to be awarded.

OS-HELP and Recognition of Prior Learning

Under HESA, a student must have completed study in a Commonwealth supported place equivalent to one EFTSL in order to be able to access an OS-HELP loan [HESA section 118-7].

A student may be eligible to access OS-HELP assistance if the provider is satisfied that they meet all eligibility requirements, including that the study was undertaken in Australia in a Commonwealth supported place and is counted towards the student’s current course of study.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) cannot be considered to satisfy the requirement that a student has 0.125 EFTSL to complete upon their return to Australia, as this study must be undertaken after the overseas portion of study for which the person has received an OS-HELP loan.

32.8 - Six‑month study period

As students who receive OS-HELP are studying at higher education institutions in other countries, their study activities will not necessarily align with Australian study periods and units of study. In order to manage OS-HELP, while maximising program flexibility, OS-HELP is built on the idea of a six‑month study period.

A student specifies the commencement date of the six-month study period in their OS‑HELP debt confirmation form. This date cannot be before the date on which the student begins the overseas study that counts towards the requirements of their course of study with their home provider.

A six‑month study period is taken to commence on a day of one month and conclude on the corresponding day six months later.

If, for the month that is six months later, there is no such corresponding day, then the last day of that month is considered to be the end of the six-month period. This mainly applies to study periods commencing at the end of August and concluding at the end of February.

Examples

  • Rhiannon is selected for OS-HELP for six months of full-time overseas study that starts on 5 December 2017. The end date of her six-month study period is 5 June 2017.
  • Xanthe receives OS-HELP to undertake six months of full-time overseas study. Her six‑month study period commences on 31 August 2017 and concludes on 28 February 2018.

Can a student receive OS-HELP for overseas study that is shorter than six months?

If a student meets all the eligibility criteria under HESA Division 118, the student may receive OS‑HELP for overseas study of any duration of time. However, OS-HELP loans are always provided in respect of a six‑month study period, regardless of the actual duration of study. This means that students cannot be selected for OS-HELP for a second time unless the second study period commences on or after the start of the next six-month period.

Example

  • Bethany is selected for OS-HELP for three months of full-time overseas study that starts on 1 December 2017 and finishes on 28 February 2018.
  • Although Bethany will only study for three months, the six‑month study period is defined as commencing on 1 December 2017 and concluding on 1 June 2018. This means that she can be selected for OS‑HELP for a second time only if her second study period commences on or after 2 June 2018.

32.9 - Overseas study requirements

A student’s overseas study must count towards the course of study in which they are enrolled in with their home provider.

Types of placements

Types of overseas study for which a student may receive OS-HELP assistance include, but are not limited to:

  • semester- or year-long study undertaken at an overseas higher education institution
  • short courses undertaken at an overseas higher education institution
  • clinical placements
  • professional placements or internships, and study tours.

In selecting students to receive OS-HELP assistance, a provider should have due regard for the likely safety and well-being of the student at their overseas study destination.

It is important to note that, under HESA Division 115, a student must meet all the overseas study requirements when they access an OS-HELP loan. This includes that a person is undertaking full-time study, and that the study outside Australia will count towards the course requirements of the course of study in which the person is enrolled.

Ultimately, it is up to each provider to determine whether the overseas study that a student wants to undertake will count towards the course requirements; e.g. whether or not the student will earn course credit.

Overseas study undertaken in Asia

A student will be considered to be undertaking overseas study in Asia if they are undertaking study in at least one of the following countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Timor-Leste, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea (South Korea), Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

A student visiting a number of countries around the world as part of a study tour would be considered to be undertaking overseas study in Asia if at least one of the countries is in Asia.

32.10 - Asian language study requirements

In the first instance, the student must be entitled to OS-HELP assistance in relation to the six month period. If the student is not entitled to OS-HELP assistance, for example, because they have an overlapping six month period, or they have already accessed two OS-HELP loans, the student would not be eligible for the supplementary amount for Asian language study [HESA subsection 118-2(1)(a)].

In selecting a student for a supplementary amount for Asian language study, a provider must be satisfied the language study is appropriate preparation for the student’s overseas study in Asia. As a guide, the Asian language study may be considered appropriate preparation for the student’s overseas study in Asia if:

  • the language is spoken at the student’s overseas study destination
  • the language study is at a suitable level for the student, taking into account any prior study of the language they may have done; and/or
  • the language study is aimed at either providing the student with general language skills that will assist with living or travelling in their overseas study destination, or providing specialised language skills relevant to their overseas study.

The Asian language study must not be taken as part of a course leading to a higher education award for which the student is in a CSP or receiving a Combined FEE-HELP loan. This means that, in many cases, if a student is taking their Asian language study through an Australian provider, they could only receive a supplementary amount if the study is on a non-award basis.

Alternatively, Asian language study for which students may be able to receive a supplementary amount could include language subjects undertaken at an overseas higher education institution or other organisation in Australia or overseas, either on an award or non‑award basis.

32.11 - Full-time study under OS-HELP

A student receiving OS-HELP must study full-time while overseas [HESA paragraph 118‑10(a)(i)].

Overseas study is full-time if the level of academic engagement required by the student while studying overseas is broadly equivalent to the level of academic engagement required by a student undertaking at least 0.75 EFTSL (see part 9) per year in an equivalent course in Australia.

Indicators of the level of academic engagement should include contact hours, volume of assessable tasks and the credit that will be provided upon successful completion of the overseas study. Because students may undertake overseas study for periods of less than six months, the level of academic engagement should be averaged with respect to the actual duration of study.

Generally, whether a student should be regarded as studying full-time while overseas is determined in relation to their course of study. The department has provided a formula below that may be useful in working out whether a student meets the full-time requirement.

greater than or equal to (≥) Duration of overseas study in weeks divided by (÷) Duration of a standard academic semester in weeks multplied by (x) Minimum credit a full‑time student would receive in a standard academic semester
  • James applies for OS-HELP to undertake a course of study overseas that will take four weeks to complete. He will be awarded 20 credit points for the overseas study. At James’ home provider, a full-time student receives a minimum of 30 credit points per semester for a 13-week semester. The formula can be used to assess whether James will be engaged in full-time study while overseas.
James receives 20 credit points for overseas study greater than or equal to (≥) The duration of James’ overseas study is four weeks Divided by (÷) The duration of a standard academic semester at James’ home provider is 13 weeks multiplied by (x) The minimum credit a full-time student would receive in a standard semester at James’ home provider is 30 points
20 greater than or equal to (≥) 4 ÷ 13     multiplied by (x) 30
20 greater than or equal to (≥) 9.23
  • James meets the criterion of being enrolled in full-time study overseas as the 20 credit points he receives for a four-week period of overseas study is greater than the 9.23 credit points he would have received for undertaking four weeks study at his home provider.

32.12 - Determining whether a student has previously received or applied for OS‑HELP

A provider should collect sufficient information from students during its OS-HELP application process to be satisfied that students have not previously received OS‑HELP assistance for overseas study on more than one occasion. Students will declare they have read the OS‑HELP statement of terms and conditions booklet when they sign the OS-HELP debt confirmation form (see part 10.1). The statement indicates that a student must not receive OS-HELP more than twice [HESA paragraph 118-1(1)(b)].

Providers can access information on how many OS-HELP loans have been reported to the department through TCSI (see part 36).

32.13 - Evidence a student is undertaking Asian language study

Students may submit details of their proposed language study on request to the provider, for example, as part of their application for selection for OS-HELP assistance. Providers are responsible for determining the suitability of the language study as preparation for the student’s overseas study.

If the student is not taking the Asian language study through their home provider, the student must provide evidence to the provider that they are undertaking the language study, for example, proof of enrolment in a language course, proof of application for admission to a language course, or a signed declaration from the student detailing the language study they are undertaking [OS-HELP Guidelines chapter 2].

As students may not wish to apply for admission to the Asian language study prior to being selected for OS-HELP assistance, a student may provide evidence that they will undertake the Asian language study after they have been selected for the main OS-HELP loan. The evidence must be provided by the time the student submits their OS-HELP debt confirmation form. If, at the time the student submits this form, a provider is not satisfied that the student will undertake the Asian language study, it should not pay the supplementary amount to the student and should inform the student of this in writing.

Determining whether a student has already completed their Asian language study at the time of application

Under HESA, a student may only be granted OS-HELP assistance if the student applies for the assistance before completing the study [HESA subsection 118-2(2)]. Therefore, a provider should collect information from students during its OS-HELP application process to provide a level of assurance that students applying for a supplementary amount for Asian language study have not already completed that language study. This requirement should be clearly outlined by the provider in its OS-HELP policy. Students will declare that they have read the OS‑HELP statement of terms and conditions booklet when they sign the OS‑HELP debt confirmation form (see part 10.1). The booklet states that a student must not apply for a supplementary amount after they have completed their Asian language study [HESA subsection 118-2(2)].

32.14 - Selecting students for OS-HELP

The OS-HELP Guidelines set out the procedures that a provider must follow when selecting students to receive OS-HELP [HESA section 118-15]. The OS-HELP Guidelines require a provider to establish its own OS‑HELP selection policy.

What must be included in an OS-HELP policy?

The OS-HELP policy must set out open, fair and transparent procedures that a provider will use in making decisions about the selection of students for OS-HELP. The selection of students for OS-HELP must be based on merit [HESA subsection 19-35(2)].

A provider’s OS-HELP policy must not include anything that is contrary to the OS‑HELP provisions set out in HESA or the OS-HELP Guidelines.

What should be included in a provider’s OS-HELP policy?

A provider’s OS-HELP policy should include sufficient information to enable the provider to administer its application and selection process for OS-HELP. The OS-HELP policy should also include information that allows students to understand what is involved in applying for, and receiving, OS-HELP.

In general, the policy should set out:

  • how students apply for OS-HELP, including application closing dates, if applicable, and what information a student must provide in support of their application to meet the statutory and institutional eligibility criteria
  • the criteria the provider will use to assess students’ applications and establish an order of merit for receipt of OS-HELP
  • how and when students will be notified, in writing, of the outcome of their OS‑HELP application
  • how the amount of OS-HELP paid to each student will be determined
  • how and when offers of OS-HELP will be made to students and how long offers will remain current
  • how and when OS-HELP payments will be made to selected students
  • any conditions that apply to OS-HELP
  • how and when selected students will be informed of these conditions
  • any restriction on OS‑HELP payment dates
  • the provider’s minimum OS‑HELP amount (if applicable); and
  • what action a student may take if they are dissatisfied with decisions the provider has made about their OS-HELP application [OS-HELP Guidelines chapter 2].

32.15 - Providing OS-HELP information to students

A provider that offers OS-HELP loans must be the first point of contact for students interested in the program. It must give all students who may be interested in applying for OS‑HELP information about the program and how students can obtain an OS‑HELP loan [OS‑HELP Guidelines chapter 2].

32.16 - Notifying students of their OS-HELP application outcome

It is a legal requirement that providers notify students who apply for OS‑HELP of the outcome of the selection process, in writing, either within two months of receiving the application or within two months of the application closing date – whichever is later [OS-HELP Guidelines 4.3.1].

If a provider selects a student for OS-HELP, then the provider must offer the OS‑HELP loan to the student in writing. The provider must also advise the student in writing of the loan amount for which they are eligible and the conditions of receiving an OS-HELP loan. The conditions of receiving an OS‑HELP loan are contained in the OS-HELP statement of terms and conditions booklet [OS-HELP Guidelines chapter 3].

These notifications may be given electronically if the student has consented to receiving this information in this way (see part 41.1). Providers could, for example, receive this consent from students as part of their OS-HELP application.

32.17 - OS-HELP debt confirmation form

Students who are selected by their provider to receive OS-HELP must complete and successfully submit an OS-HELP debt confirmation form (see part 10.1) before the provider can make an OS-HELP payment to the student.

32.18 - Collecting and handling information from students

A provider should collect sufficient documentation from students to be able to determine whether a student meets all of the OS-HELP eligibility criteria. A provider should also collect sufficient documentation from students to assess students’ applications against the selection criteria set out in its OS-HELP policy.

A provider must comply with privacy and protected information requirements (including those when handling students’ personal information as set out in part 40 of this document).

If the student has received OS-HELP assistance and the provider has reason to believe the student provided false or misleading information in their application, they must provide a copy of a student’s application to the department.

32.19 - Calculating the amount of OS-HELP

The amount of OS-HELP paid to each selected student is determined by the provider in accordance with its OS-HELP policy [HESA section 121-1].

The OS-HELP loan amount must:

  • not exceed the maximum OS-HELP loan amount for a single OS-HELP loan
  • not be less than the minimum OS-HELP amount, if the provider has specified a minimum amount in its OS-HELP policy; and
  • not be different to the amount indicated on the student’s completed and signed OS-HELP debt confirmation form.

The department publishes the maximum OS-HELP amount for each year along with other indexed rates on its website.

The information is also published on the Study Assist website.

For 2019, the maximum OS-HELP (overseas study) amount for a six-month period is:

  • $6,791 for study undertaken in a non‑Asian country; or
  • $8,149 for study undertaken in Asia.

For 2019, the maximum OS-HELP (Asian language study) amount for a six-month period is $1,085.

Notwithstanding the maximum amount, a provider should not pay students OS-HELP amounts in excess of the amounts for which students apply [HESA sections 121-1 and 121-5].

32.20 - Setting a minimum OS-HELP amount

A provider may set minimum OS-HELP amounts for overseas study and for Asian language study. If a provider intends to set a minimum OS-HELP amount, this must be specified in writing [HESA section 121‑10]. The provider’s OS‑HELP policy would be the most appropriate place to specify this.

32.21 - Amount of OS-HELP debt

The amount of a student’s OS-HELP debt is an amount equal to the amount of the loan [HESA subsection 137‑15(2)].

32.22 - Making OS-HELP payments to students

Number of payments

If a student is receiving OS-HELP assistance for both overseas study and Asian language study, a provider may pay the student their OS-HELP assistance in one or two payments by electronic funds transfer, cheque or cash (see part 32.24).

If a student is receiving OS-HELP assistance for overseas study only, they must be paid the OS-HELP assistance in one payment [OS-HELP Guidelines chapter 4].

Timing of payment

Once a student’s eligibility is confirmed, providers must not pay OS-HELP to a student until after the student has been selected for OS-HELP and has submitted a correctly completed OS-HELP debt confirmation form to the provider (see part 10.1). Providers must not pay a student more than six months in advance of the commencement of the student’s six-month study period [OS-HELP Guidelines chapter 4].

Where possible, a provider should pay students their OS-HELP in such a time that allows students to use the funds for their key travel related expenses (such as airfares). A provider may enforce a limited number of OS-HELP payment dates. If a provider chooses to do this, then the restricted OS-HELP payment dates should be:

  • set out in the provider’s OS-HELP policy
  • determined with regard for students’ financial needs; and
  • applied consistently to all students receiving OS-HELP.

32.23 - Issuing a CAN

A student must be issued a CAN no later than 28 days after the date on which the OS-HELP debt was incurred (see part 11.2) [Administration Guidelines chapter 4].

32.24 - Incurring OS-HELP debt

A student incurs their OS-HELP debt on the day the provider makes the OS-HELP payment to the student [HESA subsection 137-15(3)].

Examples

  • Mark is selected for OS-HELP for six months of full-time overseas study that starts on 1 January 2018. The Commonwealth lends to Mark the amount of his OS-HELP assistance. On 1 December 2017, prior to Mark commencing his studies, Mark’s provider pays Mark the amount lent. The date on which Mark incurs the OS‑HELP debt is 1 December 2017.
  • Andrew is selected for an OS-HELP loan of $7,880 for overseas study in Asia and a supplementary amount of $1,050 for Asian language study. He receives the supplementary amount for Asian language study on 1 February 2018 and incurs an OS‑HELP debt of $1,050 on this date. He then receives an amount for overseas study on 1 April 2018 and incurs an OS‑HELP debt of $7,880 on this date.

Payment by electronic funds transfer

If a provider pays a student their OS‑HELP loan amount by electronic funds transfer, then the OS‑HELP debt is incurred on the day the funds transfer occurs.

Payment in cash or by cheque in-hand

If a provider pays a student their OS-HELP in cash or by cheque in-hand direct to the student, the provider should obtain a signed and dated receipt from the student to record when the student received their payment. The date on the receipt is taken to be the date the OS‑HELP debt is incurred.

Payment by mailed cheque

If a provider pays a student their OS-HELP by a cheque that is mailed to the student, then the provider must send the cheque by person-to-person registered mail with delivery confirmation. Only the student receiving the OS‑HELP loan should be allowed to sign for the cheque, and the post office should send a receipt back to the provider to confirm when the student took possession of the cheque. The date the OS‑HELP debt is incurred is taken to be the day the student took possession of the cheque.

32.25 - Change in student’s circumstances

If a student’s circumstances change in such a way that a provider determines that the student no longer meets the OS‑HELP eligibility criteria and the student is yet to be paid their OS-HELP, the provider must withdraw the offer of OS‑HELP to the student as soon as practicable.

If a student’s circumstances change in such a way that a provider determines that the student no longer meets the OS-HELP eligibility criteria, but the student has already been paid their OS-HELP and thereby incurred an OS-HELP debt, then the provider is not obliged to do anything unless they have reason to believe the student provided false or misleading information in their OS-HELP application. In this case, the provider must immediately notify the department [OS‑HELP Guidelines chapter 3.5.15]. A student in this situation will already have incurred an OS‑HELP debt and must repay this debt through the ATO.

32.26 - Provision of false or misleading information by a student

If a provider knows, or has reason to believe, that a student receiving OS-HELP has provided false or misleading information in their OS-HELP application, they must immediately notify the department and provide the department with a copy of the student’s application and any other relevant information or material the department requests [OS‑HELP Guidelines chapter 4].

32.27 - What happens if a student does not undertake their overseas study or is otherwise ineligible?

If a student has been selected for OS-HELP but has yet to be paid their OS-HELP, and the provider determines the student will not be undertaking their overseas study or is otherwise ineligible, then they should withdraw the offer of OS-HELP to the student and notify the student in writing.

If a student has been paid their OS-HELP and the provider determines the student will not be undertaking their overseas study or is otherwise ineligible, then they are not required to take any further action. A student in this situation will have already incurred an OS‑HELP debt and must repay this debt through the ATO.

If an ineligible student has only received a supplementary amount for Asian language study in relation to that overseas study, the student will have already incurred an OS‑HELP debt for this payment and must repay this debt through the ATO. The provider is not required to take any further action regarding the supplementary amount, but must not pay the student the OS-HELP assistance for overseas study and must notify the student of this in writing.

32.28 - What happens if a student does not undertake their Asian language study?

If a student has been selected for, and received, a supplementary amount for Asian language study, but has yet to be paid the OS‑HELP assistance, and the provider determines the student will undertake neither the Asian language study nor the overseas study, then they must withdraw the offer of the OS-HELP loan and not pay the loan amount to the student.

If a student has been selected for a supplementary amount for Asian language study, but has yet to be paid the supplementary loan amount and their OS‑HELP assistance, and the provider determines the student will not be undertaking their Asian language study, but will be undertaking their overseas study, they should pay the student the OS-HELP loan amount for overseas study but must not pay the student the supplementary amount for Asian language study.

If a student has been paid their OS-HELP assistance and the provider determines the student will not be undertaking their Asian language study, then they are not required to take any further action. A student in this situation will have already incurred an OS‑HELP debt and must repay this debt through the ATO.

32.29 - Remitting OS-HELP debt

OS-HELP debt cannot be remitted under any circumstances.

32.30 - Repaying OS-HELP debt

A student’s OS-HELP debt is included in their accumulated HELP debt [HESA Division 140]. Students repay their accumulated HELP debt through the taxation system once their repayment income is above the minimum repayment threshold for compulsory repayments (see part 32.1).