2019 September Higher Education updates


Table of contents

The following is applicable to both higher education and vocational education and training (VET) providers

Provider Workshops wrap-up

Thank you to all who attended the HELP and VSL Provider Workshops on 25 and 26 July 2019. It was by far our biggest event yet (this was our 8th year), with more than 400 attendees across the two days. The introduction of the Transforming the Collection of Student Information (TCSI) system was a major contributor towards the huge participant numbers this year. The department appreciates the time and effort that you showed and your support for the department's endeavours to balance the number of attendees per provider against the interest in soaking up as much TCSI information as possible!

All of the guest speakers were incredibly well-received, and it was great to hear their insights into the higher education and VET sectors at day one’s plenary session. As anticipated, your feedback received throughout the event, along with the survey results, confirmed that the workshops and drop-in sessions on day two are where participants really see great benefit in attending. The department is delighted to be able to host an annual event that our stakeholders find both valuable and enjoyable.

A big thank you to all for embracing the new paperless format and taking the time beforehand to register and download materials.

Centrelink has developed a suite of videos to assist students with understanding the eligibility requirements for them to receive a student payment. Centrelink has produced around 10 different videos, ranging from ‘what is a full-time study load, to how to claim a payment and what happens when students go overseas’. Centrelink has just released its first video about ‘Can I get a payment?’.

If you would like to send this video to your students, please email the department at HEenquiries@dese.gov.au.

In addition, Centrelink also offers a number of student resources that you and/or your students may find useful:

  • These online videos on Centrelink’s YouTube playlist contain more information about student payments.
  • Your students can use the Payment and Service Finder to find, estimate and compare payments and locate services. The tool will identify payments and services that your students may be eligible for, based on their situation.
  • The payments for students and trainees page has information about the various payments available to students, trainees and Australian Apprentices.
  • The leaving school page has lots of useful resources that students can use to decide what to do after year 12.
  • Students can create their own brochure on Centrelink’s main pages, like Youth Allowance, ABSTUDY and Austudy, and use this service to share information. Student are able to create and self-print their own brochure using the ‘Customise and Print’ feature in the top right corner of their screen.

Social media

Centrelink uses Facebook and Twitter channels to send out information on student payments. Students can learn about these payments and ask general questions about their eligibility/claiming payments via these channels.

Email correspondence

Centrelink also produces a monthly email that your students can subscribe to for information on important updates, and upcoming changes to student payments. You and/or your students are encouraged to subscribe to these eNewsletters:

  • news for students and trainees
  • news for rural and remote Australians
  • news for Indigenous Australians.

Multiple Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Numbers (CHESSNs)

As you know, each student enrolled in a Commonwealth supported place, accessing the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) or accessing a VET Student Loan (VSL), is allocated a CHESSN. The CHESSN is linked to the student for the duration of their academic life and it allows the student, providers, and the Australian Government to monitor the student’s HELP and VSL entitlements and usage.

The department would like to take this opportunity to remind providers to take care when entering student information to reduce the risk of a student being issued more than one CHESSN.

What happens if a student has multiple CHESSNs?

A student’s CHESSN is an important identifier used to monitor and manage their HELP entitlements, and is critical for identifying whether they have reached their HELP loan limit. A student’s HELP balance, including their HELP and VSL loan entitlement, is calculated and reported to the department against individual CHESSNs.

If a student has more than one CHESSN, they risk exceeding their HELP limit because the HELP limit is applied to each CHESSN they are issued. If a student has been allocated multiple CHESSNs and the sum of the debt across those CHESSNs exceeds the HELP limit (which includes FEE-HELP, VET-FEE HELP, VSL and new HECS-HELP from 1 January 2020), that student cannot access any HELP/VSL loans to continue their study.

What can providers do?

To reduce the possibility of generating more than one CHESSN for the same student, it’s important to provide as much personal information as possible when generating a CHESSN in HEIMS Administration or via HEIMS Web Services. This can be done by adding additional personal details in the ‘further information’ fields i.e. Previous Names, Attended Year 12 and/or Attended Previous Provider fields. This data is used by HEIMS to search the database for existing student records. The more data that you can provide, the more robust the search will be, which reduces the risk that a student will be allocated more than one CHESSN.

In instances where a student has been allocated multiple CHESSNs, these records must be merged into a ‘master’ CHESSN. Providers need to be aware that merging CHESSNs may result in students exceeding their HELP balance, and therefore their loan entitlements. This may mean some students have no loan access for part of their studies. The department would also be required to recover loan amounts that were paid on behalf of the student above the HELP limit.

Update on the Transforming the Collection of Student Information (TCSI) project

As students start enrolling for 2020, you need to start collecting the right information to meet the new 2020 reporting requirements.

Make sure your team is across the 2020 reporting requirements and that your organisation has a plan for switching over from HEPCAT to TCSI. The department has asked senior contacts at your organisation to complete a survey outlining your plan for transition. The department will use the responses to make sure appropriate guides and support is available to help you make the switch.

The following is applicable only to higher education providers

New Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) arrangements

As you will be aware, the Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment (Student Loan Sustainability) Act 2018 (the Act), which was announced as part of the 2017-18 Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, passed both houses of Parliament on 14 August 2018.

Passage of the Act has implemented the following changes for 2019 and 2020:

  • changes to the HELP repayment thresholds
  • an increase to the FEE-HELP loan limits
  • removal of loan fees for some students at Table B providers
  • a combined, renewable HELP loan limit.

Change in thresholds

From 1 July 2019, the new minimum HELP repayment threshold of $45,881 with a one per cent repayment rate came into effect, with a further 17 thresholds and repayment rates. The top threshold is $134,573, at which 10 per cent of income is repayable.

Increase to FEE-HELP limits

From 1 January 2019, students studying medicine, dentistry and veterinary science courses have benefited from a substantial increase in their loan limit, from an estimated $130,552 to a new limit of $150,000, which is a 15 per cent increase. Students studying all other courses have a loan limit of $104,440. These amounts will still be indexed annually.

Removal of FEE-HELP loan fee for Table B providers

From 1 January 2019, undergraduate students at a Table B provider are no longer charged the 25 per cent FEE-HELP loan fee. Table B providers are Bond University, the University of Notre Dame Australia, Torrens University, and the University of Divinity. The removal of the loan fee for these students only applies to units of study with a census date on or after 1 January 2019. It places this cohort of undergraduate students on a more equal basis in terms of loan fees, irrespective of whether they attend a public or private university.

Combined, renewable HELP loan limit from 2020

Combined HELP loan limit

From 1 January 2020, there will be a combined HELP loan limit. HECS-HELP borrowing incurred from 1 January 2020 will count towards a person’s HELP limit, and FEE-HELP loans already incurred will be carried over (i.e., FEE-HELP, VET-FEE HELP and VET Student Loans). The combined HELP loan limit amount will be $152,700 for students studying medicine, dentistry and veterinary science courses, and $106,319 for all other students (i.e., the 2019 FEE-HELP loan limit amounts indexed by the Consumer Price Index).

Renewable HELP balance

The renewable component will come into effect at the same time as the combined HELP loan limit on 1 January 2020. Repayments starting from the 2019-20 income year will credit a person’s HELP balance. The Australian Taxation Office will advise the department an individual’s compulsory or voluntary repayment against their HELP debt. The department will then use this repayment information to increase a person’s HELP balance by the same amount.

Any compulsory or voluntary amounts paid will be able to be re-borrowed in the future, up to the current HELP loan limit. This will enable individuals to pursue further study in order to retrain, change careers, or further specialise in their current profession. The same maximum loan limits, depending on the course of study, will continue to apply.

The new Student Entitlements Management System (SEMS) portal

Based on the combined, renewable Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) loan limit changes commencing from 1 January 2020, more students are going to need to keep tabs on their HELP balance, to ensure they have enough HELP assistance available to cover their tuition fees. They will be able to do this via an application called myHELPbalance.

As a person’s available HELP balance will be renewable, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will, at various points throughout the year, advise the department of a person’s repayments against their HELP debt. The department will then use this repayment information to increase the person’s HELP balance by the same amount reported, so they will be able to access those funds again, up to the relevant HELP loan limit of that year.

PAYG payments are not credited to a person’s HELP debt as they are deducted from their pay. These payments are not ‘received’ by the ATO until an individual submits their tax return for assessment by the Commissioner. As a result, it is expected that the largest repayment information being shared between the department and the ATO will be during the peak tax return season.

As the department finalises the data sharing scope with the ATO, there will be clear communication for students and providers around the scheduling of repayment information, with FAQs to myHELPbalance to address students’ questions.

Both students and providers will be able to access the application to view remaining borrowing entitlements. Students will also be able to view their study and loan history.

The department has conducted extensive user research that has informed the final design of myHELPbalance, with two student surveys receiving over 2500 responses. myHELPbalance is on track for the start of 2020. The myUniAssist web application will continue to run until the end of 2019, as the FEE-HELP limits continue to operate until 31 December 2019. On 1 January 2020, the myUniAssist portal will redirect students to the myHELPbalance portal.

2019 Budget and Pre-Election Commitment measures

The Australian Government has proposed new changes in the 2019-20 Budget and the recent Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook (PEFO). These measures remain subject to the passage of legislation. The Government plans to introduce a bill to legislate these changes through the 2019 Spring sittings of Parliament.

HELP loan limit and aviation courses

Subject to the passage of legislation, from 1 January 2020, students undertaking eligible aviation courses of study will have access to the higher combined Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) loan limit. Eligible aviation courses of study include those that meet the requirements to obtain the ratings required by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) for a Commercial Pilot Licence. The loan limit amount will be $152,700, which is the 2019 FEE-HELP limit indexed by the Consumer Price Index.

Through the Budget and PEFO, the Government has agreed that aviation courses under both higher education and vocational education and training can be eligible for the higher loan limit. The limit is designed to cover not just the cost of a Commercial Pilot Licence, but also other qualifications required for employment as a pilot such as the Multi Engine Command Instrument Rating and the Multi Crew Co-operation qualification.

Remission of HELP debt for teachers in very remote areas of Australia

Following on from the Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap speech of 14 February 2019, and subject to the passage of legislation, the Government will remit part or all of an individual’s HELP debt if they work in a school in a very remote area for four years. Indexation will also be waived for all teachers working as a teacher in very remote school in Australia.

Under this measure, those engaged as a teacher in a very remote area of Australia (as defined by the 2016 ASGS Remoteness Structure) for at least four years from 2019 may be eligible to have all or part of their HELP debt remitted. The amount of HELP debt to be remitted will be the cost (up to a total of five years) of obtaining a recognised teaching qualification in either Commonwealth supported study (HECS-HELP), a full fee-paying place (FEE-HELP), or a combination of both.

To be eligible, teachers must have graduated from a higher education provider with a recognised teaching qualification, have received accreditation and approval from the appropriate authority, and have an outstanding HELP debt for all or part of their qualification.

Teachers must have completed a full time equivalent of four years teaching over a maximum six-year period, or part time equivalent. The amount of HELP debt to be remitted will be the outstanding amount owed, relating to a recognised teaching qualification, as at the placement commencement date. Part-time teachers will have their service recognised on a pro rata basis. This proposal will not be applied retrospectively to any HELP debt already repaid or any time already spent teaching in a very remote location prior to 2019.

In addition, teachers working in a very remote area of Australia will not be charged indexation on their accumulated HELP debt for the period they are engaged. There is no requirement for an individual to complete any length of service for this indexation to be waived. Once teachers are no longer teaching in a very remote area, indexation on any remaining HELP debt will recommence.

Charging Measures

Subject to the passage of the Higher Education Support Amendment (Cost Recovery) Bill 2019 and the associated Higher Education Support (Charges) Bill 2019,  from 1 January 2020:

  • An application fee will be introduced on prospective FEE-HELP providers submitting an application for approval as a higher education provider. This will recover the Australian Government's full costs for administering and assessing applications from prospective FEE-HELP providers.
  • An annual charge will be introduced to providers to partially recover the costs incurred by the Government in administering the HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP programs to them.

Providers will not be issued an invoice for the annual charge for the 2020 calendar year until May 2021, after the reconciliation of higher education providers' HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP student enrolment data has occurred. The activities that will be cost recovered and the amounts to be charged can be found in the Cost Recovery Implementation Statement, which will be published once the legislation passes through the Australian Parliament.


OS-HELP review

The department conducted an internal review of the OS-HELP scheme, which assists Commonwealth supported students to study part of their course overseas.

The allocation limit of 20,000 loans per year (specified in the OS-HELP Guidelines 2013) has influenced the review as the actual numbers of loans allocated is approaching this limit. The department analysed the loan distribution process whereby advance payments are made to providers at the beginning of the year based on providers’ estimates. A reconciliation process takes place later in the year on actual loans allocated against these estimates.

The department is concerned that providers are approving and allocating loans at a rate less than the maximum, requiring the Government to reclaim a substantial portion of funding later in the year. In 2017, the total amount advanced to providers in respect to OS-HELP loans was around $154 million. Around $51 million of this was reclaimed as an overpayment, due to the loans not being allocated. 

As a result, the department is considering several options in determining the way in which upfront OS-HELP payments to providers could be improved. These options would merely be an administrative change relating to upfront payments. If providers wish to allocate further loans during the year and require further payments, the April and October revised estimates processes would still continue.

Loan allocation process for OS-HELP loans

The department would like to remind providers that they should not allocate loans above the amount advised in writing by the department. As stated in the following extract from the OS-HELP Guidelines 2013:

“the number of students selected for receipt of OS-HELP assistance in relation to a period must be such that the number of loans for overseas study does not exceed the number advised in writing to the higher education provider by the Department” (Chapter 2.15.1).

    This is especially important as the number of loans nears the 20,000 limit. Where providers exhaust the number of loans advised by the department and wish to allocate more loans to students, they must first seek approval from the department before these loans are allocated and paid to students.

    Loans paid without the appropriate approval are at risk of being invalidated. If you require additional loans beyond the amount advised in writing by the department, please refer to section 32.4 of the Administrative Information for Providers for more information on this process.

    Census date on weekend/holiday

    The department advises that, when setting census dates, providers need to consider the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 (the Act).

    In basic terms the Act says that if you set the last day for doing something (e.g., the census date) on a weekend or a holiday then this “thing” can be done on the next day that is not a weekend or a holiday. For example:

    • Unit 101 census date – Saturday 12 October 2019
    • Student withdraws from Unit 101 – Monday 14 October 2019

    In this case the student has met the census date requirements in terms of withdrawing on or before the census date and they are not liable for the HELP debt for Unit 101.

    Allowing ‘a thing’ (eg the submission of a HELP application form or the withdrawal from a unit of study) to be done on the next day (to the weekend or holiday) does not grant a student extra time to become eligible, for example, to become a citizen, or to apply for a tax file number. The student would still be required to be eligible as at census date.

    The Study Assist chat bot – pilot phase launching soon

    You may have heard that Study Assist will soon have its own ‘virtual assistant/chat bot’. This has been a long time coming and the pilot phase is due to be launched at the end of September! The pilot phase will run from the end of September 2019 to end of January 2020. The purpose of the pilot phase is to train the chat bot to answer student questions appropriately.

    The chat bot will be around 24/7 to answer questions from students, advisors, and influencers on topics such as getting a student loan, loan eligibility, repayment of debts etc. If the question cannot be answered or it does not sit within the scope of Study Assist, the chat bot will suggest the best place for the user to find the requested information.

    The team is currently developing a ‘knowledge base’ of information. The chat bot will pull its answers from the knowledge base and we need you, the providers, to assist us by using and channelling traffic towards the chat bot during the pilot. This is so the chat bot can be continually learning and growing–by absorbing all the different ways people essentially ask the same question(s)–and tailoring its knowledge base to suit those who are using it.

    If you wish to be part of promoting the chat bot to your students, please email HEenquirie@dese.gov.au expressing your interest and the team will let you know when the pilot is launched.

    Course Seeker website update

    Last year, the department, in association with the Tertiary Admission Centres, launched the Course Seeker website, a national course comparison tool which allows prospective higher education students to search over 7000 courses. Students can explore, select and compare up to four higher education courses nationally.

    Deciding on a course and provider can be a daunting experience. With Course Seeker, students can narrow down their course options by ATAR, mode of study, study area and location.

    Course Seeker is a one-stop-shop. It provides prospective higher education students with transparent information about Australian higher education admissions, helping them to make important choices regarding their future study options.

    There are a further two phases of enhancements to Course Seeker this year. The first of these enhancements will focus on:

    • adding the remaining higher education providers not currently on the Course Seeker website
    • adding the student and institution information sets and expanding the ATAR profiles
    • functional and cosmetic changes that will improve the overall user experience.

    Future enhancements will focus on the recommendations from the Post Launch user experience testing (UET) report.

    If you are a higher education provider and have not been contacted in regard to the Phase 2 enhancements of the Course Seeker website, please contact the department at Courseseeker@dese.gov.au or you can visit the Course Seeker website.

    Performance-based funding for the Commonwealth Grant Scheme (PBF scheme)

    As part of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2017–18, the Australian Government announced that it was capping Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS) funding for bachelor-level places at 2017 levels for 2018 and 2019. From 2020, funding for bachelor-level places will grow in line with population growth in the 18-64 year-old age bracket, contingent on universities meeting specified performance requirements.

    Performance-based funding aims to create more accountability for the spending of public money on specific national higher education priorities, promote and develop sound performance assessment of teaching and learning at universities, and create financial incentives to improve specific areas of university performance.

    From 2020 onwards, the amount of funding associated with the performance-based funding (about 1.3 to 1.4 per cent of CGS funding, in line with population growth) will be more than $80 million per year. Universities will continue to be able to access CGS funding of around $7 billion per year without any reference to their performance, and more than $17 billion per year in funding for higher education and research in total.

    On 18 December 2018, the Minister for Education announced that an expert panel would lead consultation with the university sector on the design and implementation of the PBF scheme. The consultation process comprised a discussion paper, public submission process, and stakeholder consultations across metropolitan and regional cities.

    The expert panel provided the Government with its final report on 30 June 2019. In line with sector feedback, the expert panel noted that the scheme has to be fit for purpose, fair, robust and feasible, and stressed the importance of taking into account university specific contexts such as their varied missions and student characteristics. The four proposed measures for university performance include graduate outcomes, student success, student experience and equity group participation.

    The report was publicly released on 7 August 2019.

    If you have any further questions, please contact Hereform@dese.gov.au.

    2019 variations for non university higher education providers

    The third and final variation round to annual FEE-HELP advances closes on 30 September 2019. For providers that wish to request a variation to their approved 2019 FEE-HELP advance amount, all required documentation must be submitted to FEE-HELP@dese.gov.au

    2020 estimates for non university higher education providers

    Providers must submit their 2020 FEE-HELP estimate of advance payments to FEE-HELP@dese.gov.au by COB Friday 4 October 2019. Providers that submit estimates after this date may have their first 2020 UniPay payment delayed until February 2020 or later.

    Providers that submit estimates without up-to-date data or satisfactory supporting evidence may have their estimate rejected or approved for a lesser amount.

    Further information about the submission of 2020 FEE-HELP estimates of advance payments will be distributed to providers via email within the next few weeks.

    If you have any further questions please contact FEE-HELP@dese.gov.au

    2020 student Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) publications

    The department is continuing its ‘digital approach’ to student HELP publications. The team is currently working on updating these publications, and with a view to making the publications available around end October/early November 2019.

    Student forms

    With the majority of providers using their own eCAF system or the Government’s eCAF system, there will only be a limited number of paper CAFs printed for 2020. The department would like to reiterate that any paper form orders over 200 (for each loan) will require a business case justifying why an eCAF is not being used. To manage this process:

    • Universities will be emailed an order template in early October to call for paper orders and the business case for orders over 200 forms.
    • Non-university private higher education providers will be emailed instructions on how to order paper forms via HITS around the same time.

    Student booklets

    While the department does not print hard copy booklets, providers can request the relevant print files of the various HELP booklets from the department and print hard copies themselves, or direct students to download/read the booklets from the HELP Publications page of the Study Assist website.

    Student brochures

    2019 HELP brochures are available for providers to use at open days/expos this year.
    When the 2020 brochures are ready, they will be available from the same Study Assist link noted above for the booklets.

    Want to have a look at the Government eCAF?

    For providers not using any type of eCAF at the moment, have a look at the Government eCAF training environment to investigate if it could work with your business processes. To request access to the eCAF training environment, please email: HEenquiries@dese.gov.au.

    The following is applicable only to VET providers

    Question and answers from the 2019 HELP and VSL Provider Workshops

    Below is a summary of questions asked at the recent Workshops event relevant to VET Student Loans (VSL), with corresponding responses from the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business. Should providers have any queries regarding this information, please submit an enquiry using the VSL Providers Form. 

    What should a provider do if a student successfully completes part of the unit, but fails the other part?

    This may arise where a provider does not have a one-to-one arrangement where one Unit of Study (UoS) equals one Unit of Competency (competency). Where a UoS has more than one competency, the student may successfully complete part of the unit (one competency) but fail the other competency. In these circumstances, where the provider has complied with the RTO Standards regarding training and assessment and is in a position to result the student’s assessment of the UoS, in terms of reporting the UoS completion status to the department (HEIMS element 355), the provider would report the student as having failed the UoS. However, the provider must be able to give the student a statement of attainment for the successfully completed competencies, and otherwise comply with all RTO Standards. The student must continue to be enrolled or re-enrol in the UoS to complete the UoS again to access VSL, assuming they have not exhausted their course loan cap. The provider may charge a lesser tuition fee proportionate to the remaining part of the UoS to be repeated by the student. If the VSL loan cap has been reached, the student may have to pay fees upfront for the repeated unit/remainder of the course. When the student successfully completes the UoS, the provider will then report the UoS successful completion status and issue a statement of attainment for the completed competency/ies. Providers may wish to structure units where 1 UoS = 1 competency to make this type of scenario less problematic.

    Can providers run or have access to a draft payment report earlier than the Payment Report is currently available?

    The Payment Report becomes available to providers on the first business day of each month. The department received feedback requesting the report showing payment errors be available earlier than this timeframe. The department will investigate whether this is feasible, noting that additional IT changes are unlikely in the short-term.

    Can the department re-word the data reporting statutory declaration to be consistent with the way providers report data?

    The department will review the data reporting statutory declaration template and consider if/how the document could better reflect the way providers report data. Providers will be advised of any changes as applicable. Until then, the template must be completed correctly.

    Does the department and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) have any strategies for providers who have issues with getting students to give them their tax file number (TFN) following submission of a Certificate of Application for a TFN?

    It is a requirement under the VET Student Loans Act 2016 (VSL Act) for a student to provide a valid TFN in order to be eligible for a VSL Loan. In the event that a student does not provide their TFN or provide personal details that can be verified for their TFN, the student is not eligible for a VSL loan and payment will not be made to the provider. The provider’s cancellation policies should make this clear, noting that where a VSL provider cancels a student’s enrolment after the census day, section 87 of the VET Student Loans Rules 2016 (VSL Rules) requires the provider to give the student at least 28 days advance notice of the cancellation to allow the student to access grievance procedures before the cancellation takes effect.

    A fact sheet created by the department and the ATO is available to help providers with managing students who are providing TFN details that are not passing the TFN verification process. Providers can give this fact sheet to their students to help them understand why they have to provide a TFN, what happens if the TFN is not valid and what the student needs to do to ensure that the TFN they are supplying can be validated. 

    Is there likely to be changes to the loan caps – e.g. $10,000 moving up to $12,000, or additional cap bands and courses, or courses moving from one cap to a higher cap?

    The VET Student Loans (Courses and Loans Caps) Determination 2016 is a legislative instrument, issued by the Minister. The instrument will be updated for 2020 prior to the end of 2019, and will be provided as soon as possible after Ministerial approval. Changes may occur pending findings of the external evaluation of the program due to report in November 2019. The department is not able to provide advance notification of likely changes.

    The 2020 indexed loan caps will be published on the department’s website by late August 2019.

    Can the department please develop a mapping document to show changes to the Provider Manual or publish the manual with track changes?

    The Provider Manual contains a 'Change Register' at the beginning of the document just after the Contents (on page 6 of the current version). This feature identifies which sections incorporate new/updated guidance and a brief description of the changes made. Providers are also advised of any significant changes to the Provider Manual through bulk notifications and the VSL Provider Newsletter, which is published on the department's website.

    Could the department provide a simple diagram on what providers must do in relation to the ‘life cycle’ of a VSL student? For example, what the provider must do before enrolment, at enrolment and after they enrol a student, to help them remain compliant.

    The department will develop a new resource to assist providers in meeting their obligations taking this feedback into account. In the meantime, providers should refer to page 8 of the Provider Manual, which contains a graphic showing the chronological process of how the VSL program works from the point of student enrolment, taking into account both provider and student responsibilities.

    What evidence should a provider keep to demonstrate the information which was given to students?

    Section 52 of the VSL Act requires approved course providers to retain documents and information that is: (a) related to the operation of the VSL Act; and (b) specified by the VSL Rules. Section 52 further provides that such documents and information must be retained for the period specified in the VSL Rules, or for 7 years if no period is specified in the VSL Rules.

    Division 4 of Part 7 of the VSL Rules ‘Retaining Information and Documents’ (sections 104 and 105) is made for the purposes of section 51 of the VSL Act. Section 105 of the VSL Rules specifies documents and information that must be retained by approved course providers for a period of 5 years. These include:

    • the information provided to a student under section 98 before the student enrolled in an approved course
    • documents obtained or assessments undertaken for the purposes of determining a student’s academic suitability
    • records of the student’s enrolment, including the day and time the student enrols in the course or a part of the course
    • information and documents collected for the purposes of, or in relation to, an application by a student for a VSL loan
    • if applicable, the day and time the student gives the provider an application for a VSL (this information will be retained in the eCAF system)
    • all correspondence between the provider and the student (or the student’s parent or guardian) in relation to the course, including notices issued to the student
    • records of each use of the provider’s grievance procedure
    • the census days and tuition fees for approved courses
    • a copy of each version of a process or procedure required under the VSL Rules, and the dates when the version was current
    • marketing and promotional material relating to approved courses.

    Further, section 85 of the VSL Rules sets out that an approved course provider must have processes and procedures relating to the collection and verification of information for the purposes of, or in relation to, applications by students for VSL. These processes and procedures must require the collection and verification of the following information and documents relating to a student applying for a VSL:

    1. information about the student’s identity and date of birth
    2. if the student is under 18, information that:
      1. one of the signatories to the application is a responsible parent of the student; or
      2. the student has received youth allowance (within the meaning of the Social Security Act 1991) on the basis that the student is independent (within the meaning of Part 2.11 of that Act)
    3. information and documents to establish that the student meets the requirements of section 11 of the Act
    4. if the student has applied for, but not been issued with a TFN, then the Certificate of Application for a TFN.

    Information or documents that are not related to the operation of the VSL Act or VSL Rules are not subject to the retention obligations in section 51 of the VSL Act. However, approved course providers will need to consider and comply with any other applicable requirements, including, for example, any requirements imposed by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) or the Australian Security and Investments Commission  (ASIC).

    For further information regarding requirements for retaining student information for the VSL program please see section 4.12 Retaining information and documents in the VET Student Loans Manual for Providers.

    When and how are updates made to Schedule 3 of the VET Student Loans (Course and Loan Caps) Determination 2016?

    The Department of Employment considers requests by listed and not for profit providers to include additional courses in Schedule 3 of the VET Student Loans (Courses and Caps) Determination 2016 that are not otherwise on the eligible course list. Providers can make such a request at any time throughout the year. 

    KPMG customer research – VET Student Loan (VSL) program

    The Department of Employment has recently engaged KPMG to conduct customer research in relation to VSL providers and students. This research, which will take place in late August/early September 2019 will help the department understand the current pain points in the end-to-end student and provider journey with the VSL program. A sample of providers will be contacted by KPMG or Stable Research (KPMG’s research partner) to participate in interviews and, where possible, support recruitment of students to partake in customer research. Please take the opportunity to engage with this project if you are contacted.

    HITS – Contact list reminder, and Key Personnel updates

    Providers are reminded to ensure that details of contacts and key personnel are up-to-date in the HELP IT System (HITS) at all times. This ensures providers will receive important information from the department, including correspondence, regular VSL newsletters and updates. This requires updates to two HITS tabs – ‘Contacts’ and ‘Key Personnel’. Please see the Communications item on page 8 of the July VSL Newsletter for further information. VSL Newsletters are available on the Information for VET Student Loans Approved Providers page.