The Tuition Protection Service (TPS) assists higher education students whose education providers are unable to fully deliver their course or unit of study. TPS works with higher education providers to meet their tuition protection obligations and collects levies to support this activity.
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The TPS protects higher education students at private education providers when their provider defaults, whether the students pay their tuition fees up-front or use a HELP loan. A provider defaults when they close, stop offering a course or unit of study, or fail to start a course or unit of study with enrolled students.
The TPS helps higher education students to:
- continue their studies with a replacement provider in an equivalent or similar course; or
- receive a refund of their tuition fees paid up-front and/or receive a loan re-credit for parts of the course that the student commenced but could not complete due to a provider default.
The TPS is sector funded and supported by the Department of Education. Providers contribute annual TPS levies according to their size and risk of defaulting.
While most universities, TAFEs and government funded providers are exempt from the tuition protection requirements, this does not prevent those providers from enrolling affected students as replacement providers.
Higher education providers are automatically covered by the TPS. There is no need to register for the TPS.
The TPS Director is also the Higher Education Tuition Protection Director under the relevant legislation.
Ongoing provider requirements
The Higher Education Support Act 2003 and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011 set out the ongoing requirements for higher education providers.
It is important that providers fulfill their provider reporting requirements, which include maintaining and updating:
- student contact details
- records of unit and course completions
- students’ unique student identifiers (USI)
- data reported in the Tertiary Collection of Student Information (TCSI)
- responding to information requests from the TPS Director.
It is also important to maintain the above information in the event of a default.
Higher education levies and fund
To build and sustain the fund, all non-exempt higher education providers are required to pay the annual HELP tuition protection levy (HELP levy) and/or the up-front payments tuition protection levy (up-front levy).
While the HELP levy was waived in 2020 and 2021, 2021 up-front levy waived as part of the Government’s COVID-19 relief measures, both higher education tuition protection levies will be charged for the first time in 2022.
The 2022 higher education levies are made up of the following components at these rates:
|Levy||Admin fee per provider||Admin fee per student||Base risk rate||% Risk rate||Special tuition protection component|
The TPS Advisory Board has released its draft advice to the TPS Director regarding the settings for the domestic 2023 HELP Tuition Protection Levy and 2023 Up-front Payments Tuition Protection Levy. This advice was offered to the TPS Director in accordance with the advice received from the Australian Government Actuary (AGA).
The risk factors comprising the risk rated premium component are intended to reflect the risk of default. They are:
- Financial strength
- Completion rate
- Non-compliance history and registration renewal.
A risk factor framework developed by the Australian Government Actuary (AGA) determines the risk rated premium component of the levies. This is determined annually by the TPS Director in collaboration with the TPS Advisory Board, AGA and feedback from stakeholders. The administration fee component is determined by the Minister.
This formula below demonstrates how individual higher education provider levies are calculated for HELP loans and/or up-front payments.
Information in relation to a breakdown of the risk factors is available in the 2022 TPS Domestic levies fact sheet.
Further information is available in the Higher Education Support (HELP Tuition Protection Levy) Act 2020, the Higher Education (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection Levy) Act 2020 and the 2022 determinations for HELP and Up-front levies.
Interaction with education and training sector regulators
The TPS maintains regular contact with the education and training sector regulators to discuss relevant issues, for example education providers at risk of compliance action. The TPS Advisory Board also invites the regulators to its Board meeting on an annual basis to share views on the domestic and international education sectors, which helps inform the risk factor settings of the respective TPS levies each year. As the risk factor calculations for the respective TPS levies are designed to reflect the risk of provider default, they are not equivalent to the risk assessments conducted by the regulators and are calculated using different data.
A default occurs when a provider closes, fails to start, or stops offering a course or unit of study.
If you are at risk of defaulting please contact the TPS immediately at firstname.lastname@example.org. The TPS will help guide you through your obligations and next steps.
Reporting the default
Providers are required to notify their students and the TPS Director in writing within 24 hours of the default occurring. There are also other reporting and notice requirements providers must fulfill upon default.
Please refer to Higher Education Provider Default Obligations when completing these steps.
Obligations if a provider defaults
If a provider has defaulted, within 14 days the provider must either:
- arrange for the student to be offered a place in a suitable replacement unit or course and the student accepts the offer in writing; or
- pay the student a refund of any up-front payments for the affected unit(s) or re-credit the student’s HELP balance for any HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP assistance used to pay for the affected unit(s) to the Commonwealth.
Please note, students can choose between continuing their studies at the replacement course you identify or receiving a refund and/or HELP loan re‑credit.
If there are no suitable replacement units or courses, providers are required to refund up-front fee paying students or re-credit students’ HELP balances with an amount equal to the amount of HECS‑HELP or FEE-HELP assistance the student received for the affected unit(s) of study.
In fulfilling these obligations, students must be satisfied with their refund, HELP loan re-credit or replacement unit or course option and accept the offer in writing.
Providers should contact the TPS immediately at email@example.com if they are unable to meet these obligations.
The TPS may contact providers with an opportunity to enrol additional students. This will happen when there has been a default and there are students who wish to continue their studies.
Becoming a replacement provider
Higher Education providers are encouraged to act as replacement providers. Providers identified as delivering possible suitable replacement courses will be contacted by the TPS to discuss:
- the willingness and capacity of the provider to act as a replacement provider
- the date affected students would be able to commence in a replacement unit or course
- the incentive payment (if any) that may be available to assist with administrative costs of taking on affected students.
The process of placing students with replacement providers is as follows:
- The TPS formally advises students of suitable replacement units or courses.
- Students contact their potential replacement provider(s) and discuss whether the replacement course will meet their personal needs.
- Students inform the TPS of their preferred replacement unit or course.
- The TPS contacts the replacement providers to advise them of students’ preferences.
- The replacement providers contact the students to facilitate offers and enrolment. If there are any problems at this stage, please contact the TPS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Replacement providers will then enter into a signed student placement agreement with the student.
Incentives for becoming a replacement provider
Incentive payments may be made to replacement providers. The purpose of these payments is to contribute towards the unavoidable costs associated with accepting additional students.
The TPS may offer incentive payments to facilitate positive outcomes for students who are affected by defaults. There is no minimum or maximum incentive payment amount.
The incentive payment becomes payable to the replacement provider after a student's first reported census date, if the following have occurred:
- the student is enrolled
- an agreement is signed by the provider and the student, or their guardian, and provided to the TPS; and
- the student submits an Electronic Commonwealth Assistance Form (eCAF) (HELP students only).
Replacement provider obligations
The tuition protection arrangements impose obligations on replacement providers. These include:
- notifying the TPS Director in writing of a student’s acceptance of an offer of a place in a replacement unit or course within 14 days of the acceptance
- granting course credits for units of study of the original course successfully completed by the student
- not charging students tuition fees or student contribution amounts for replacement components of the affected part of the original course for which tuition fees were already paid
- enrolling a student in the replacement unit or course as soon as practicable.