University Finance Options explained

Going to University is expensive. When you add up tuition fees, accommodation, books, living expenses etc., it can seem overwhelming.

So let’s talk about money.


Don’t be put off

If you’d really love to go to Uni, or if your dream job requires a certain qualification for entry (make sure you’ve checked out all the possible pathways too), there will most likely be a way to get yourself there.

And, if you have your heart set on one Uni in particular, don’t let the costs of moving interstate or living away from home put you off either. Life’s just too short for regrets.

Once you’ve decided to make the leap, you’ll need to figure out your finances, find the best options for you. Trying to minimise your debt after leaving Uni while still having decent accommodation, eating more than fresh air and having a bit of fun money too.


Some options to consider

There are lots of ways of getting some financial assistance to help you get through University. Here are some of the finances that might be available to help you afford Uni.

  • Government Study Assist options include:


Commonwealth Supported Places (CSP) – the government pays for a portion of your university fees. It’s not a loan and you don’t have to pay it back. You must be able to cover the “student contribution amount”.

If you’re an Australian Citizen you are eligible.

  • You must make sure that the course you want to study is a CSP, so check with the Uni
  • Apply for the course via TAC or direct entry
  • Follow the instructions in your acceptance letter (it will advise you if have secured one of the CSP’s or not)
  • Complete the required online form before the close date.


HELP Loans:

FEE-HELP – is a loan to help pay for tuition fees (all or part). The maximum amount or limit you could receive is $104,440, ($150,000 if studying medicine, dentistry or veterinary science) (2019 figures).

An additional 25% loan fee applies to some undergraduate units. For example you’re using FEE-HELP to pay for a $1,000 unit, you’ll end up paying back $1,250. The fee loans don’t count towards your FEE-HELP limit though.

Australian citizens enrolled in an eligible course with a provider who offers FEE-HELP (check with the Uni) can apply for the loan.

To apply, you’ll need a tax file number (TFN) and to fill in a Request for FEE-HELP assistance form (from the Uni) and return it before the census date.


HECS-HELP – a loan to help pay for the student contribution amount of tuition fees on commonwealth supported places at Uni.

To be eligible you must be enrolled in a CSP at Uni and be an Australian Citizen.

To apply for HECS-HELP, you’ll need to apply for a TFN and fill in a Request for Commonwealth support and HECS-HELP form (from the Uni) and return it by the census date.


SA-HELP – a loan is to help pay for the SSAF (student services and amenities fee) that Uni’s charge to students.  Not all Uni’s charge this fee, so it’s worth checking when you’re applying, so you know whether you’ll have to cover this cost.

The SSAF covers campus costs including child care, food services, financial advice, sporting and recreational activities or employment and career advice.

To be eligible you must be an Australian citizen enrolled on a course with a provider who offers HELP loans (check with the Uni).

To apply you’ll need to apply for a TFN and fill in a Request for SA-HELP assistance form (from the Uni), and submit it by the census date.


Note: although these loans are interest free, HELP loans are indexed. This means that on the 1st of June every year an additional charge will be added to your loan. The charge will vary depending on the overall health of the economy.

You’ll start paying back your interest free (indexed) loan when you’re earning above the compulsory threshold amount ($51,957 in 2018-19), or you can start making voluntary repayments to the ATO at any time.


  • Centrelink Payments:

These are not loans, so you won’t have to pay them back. You’ll need to apply for these payments through Centrelink, meet the eligibility requirements, and keep your myGov account updated with any changes in your circumstances.

You’ll need to set up a myGov / Centrelink account if you haven’t already got one.

Youth allowance –aged 24 or under & in full-time study.

You’ll need to be an Australian citizen enrolled on a course with a Uni that offers HELP loans to receive this payment. (You don’t have to take out a HELP loan to be eligible though).

The payment rate you could receive is variable, and is calculated based on your individual circumstances (assessed when you apply). But for example if you are over 18, with no children and need to live away from home to study the maximum you could receive would be $455.20 per fortnight.

Follow the instructions on how to apply. You’ll need supporting documentation on hand so read up on what you’ll need before you start.


Austudy – a means tested payment available to over 25’s in full-time study at an approved institution.

The amount you’ll receive varies depending on how much you earn and if you have any assets. For example, the highest rate you can receive if you’re single with no children would be $455.20 per fortnight.

Follow the instructions on how to apply, you’ll need supporting documentation to hand so read up what you’ll need before you start.


ABSTUDY – payments for Aboriginal / Torres Strait Islander students studying full or part time.

It covers study and housing costs, living expenses and travel.

The amount you will receive depends on your individual circumstances, but for example, if you are aged 16-21 and living away from home you could receive a maximum of $455.20 per fortnight.

If you are eligible to receive ABSTUDY for a tertiary education course, you may also be eligible for:

ABSTUDY living allowance (living expenses)

Additional Assistance (costs in exceptional circumstances)

Additional Incidentals Allowance (essential course costs)

Away from Base Assistance (approved study travel costs)

Fares Allowance (approved travel from home to Uni and back)

Incidentals Allowance (study costs)

Rent Assistance

Remote Area Living Allowance

Pharmaceutical Allowance

Relocation Scholarship

Student Start up Loan

*You may not need to apply separately for these, you’ll be assessed on your original ABSTUDY application.

Follow the instructions on how to apply. You may need supporting documentation to hand, so read up or give the Centrelink office a call to find out what you’ll need before you start.


Additional payments include:

Student start-up loan – a loan of $1,077 twice a year. You must be receiving one of the above payments and be studying an accredited course at Uni full-time.


Relocation scholarship – get an annual payment of $4,553 in 1st year, $2,278 2nd year & $1,138 every year after that If you receive ABSTUDY / Youth Allowance / Energy Supplement,  need to move to or from a regional or remote area for higher education study.


Fares Allowance – Covers the cost of travel to & from your place of study (limited trips). You must be a tertiary student living away from home, receiving Youth Allowance / Austudy / Pensioner Education Supplement, study online or by distance.


Rent Assistance – variable, but for every $1 above the set minimum rate, you could receive $0.75 back. To be eligible you must be receiving other payments from Centrelink.


Pensioner Education Supplement – must be receiving other payments from Centrelink, studying full-time, or studying part-time as a single parent / have a disability, injury or illness. You can receive $62.40 per fortnight / $31.20 per fortnight depending on your eligibility.


If you’re studying part time while you study, look at job seeker allowances including:

Newstart Allowance

Youth Allowance as a job seeker


If you’re not eligible for any of the above payments but you’re on a low income you could apply for a low income health care card. (From 1 Jan 2019 if you’re receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY you’ll automatically receive a Health Care Card).

It may entitle you to cheaper prescription medications, energy and electricity, healthcare, and public transport.


Youth Disability Supplement – The maximum amount is $129.80 per fortnight and you’ll be automatically assessed when you apply for Disability Support Pension  / Youth Allowance / ABSTUDY.

Use the Payment and Service Finder to see if you eligible for any of the above payments, and if there’s anything else you might be able to apply for.


  • Tertiary Admissions Centres (TAC)

TACs are the state / territory organisations who process most of the applications for Universities (some Universities only take direct applications, and some offer the choice of applying directly or through a TAC).

They offer financial assistance to students with low socio-economic backgrounds, to help them get to Uni. Some TACs assess each student on the basis of their original application and the information supplied, while others require you to make a separate application. So read all about the requirements and how to apply, and make sure you get your applications in before the cut-off dates.


Educational Access Scheme (EAS)


Educational Access Scheme (EAS)


You can apply for some scholarships through VTAC. Check this list for a which Universities and which scholarships apply.

Special Entry Access Scheme (SEAS)


Undergraduate Institution Equity Scholarships (IES), SATAC processes Equity Scholarships on behalf of the University of South Australia.


No specific programs, but each of the 4 Universities (Curtin, Edith Cowan, Murdoch & UWA) have scholarships and programs that you may be eligible to apply for.


Through UTAS you may be able to access financial counselling or the Safety Net Grant Scheme.


  • Scholarships

Scholarships are awards that help students achieve further education goals. They’re usually a financial boost, a one-off payment, or an annual payment for the duration of the lucky recipients’ studies. But sometimes they come with other benefits, including mentoring, access to special schemes, networking etc.

Scholarships directly aimed at helping students from low-socio economic or rural and remote backgrounds are often called equity scholarships. But even if you’re not classed in one of those categories, there are plenty of scholarships you are still eligible to apply for.

Scholarships are awarded based upon various criteria, decided by the donor or founder of the award. They usually go towards (or cover) tuition fees, living and accommodation costs.

There are over 3,000 scholarships available in Australia. They come from a number of sources including Universities, private donors, private organisations and the government.

Examples of scholarship categories include:

– Merit / achievement / academic

– Gender

– Indigenous

– Sporting excellence / Athletic ability

– Financial support (low income) / equity

– Regional / remote (students from remote areas that may otherwise be disadvantaged)

– Leadership 

Scholarship money is not a loan and not required to be repaid.

However, there are usually conditions attached. For example studying in a particular field, studying at a specific Uni, retaining a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA), you must write to the donor, etc.

Always check the terms and conditions before applying for and accepting any scholarships to make sure that you’re happy to comply.

When you’ve decided what you want to study and where, it’s definitely worth spending some time researching your scholarship options and applying. You’ve got nothing to lose.


  • Grants:

Similar to scholarships, grants are a sum of money donated (so not a loan and don’t need to be repaid) to students to help them with their studies.

Generally speaking the amounts of money involved tend to be smaller than what’s available in Scholarship funds, but this isn’t always the case.

It’s definitely another option worth researching when you’re making your Uni applications, and do apply for them.


  • Bursaries:

Like a grant, a bursary is a sum of money awarded to a student to help them in their studies. They’re provided by the Uni and are often linked to different schools.

Check what’s available when you’ve decided on the courses you’d like to apply for.


What other options could you consider:

If you’re still unsure whether you can afford to go to Uni, or you’re just not sure that the loans and payments you’ve applied for will be enough, before you get disheartened you can:

  • List all your expenses and incomes
  • Work out a budget
  • Start working now and begin saving
  • Consider getting part time work (check how much you’re allowed to earn before any payments you are receiving are stopped)

Speak to your parents, teachers and the Universities you’d like to apply for. They can help you come up with ways that could help you achieve your goals.



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