HELP loans explained

HELP loans explained

You can borrow money for further studies


For most school leavers, it’s unlikely you’ll have access to large sums of money, even if you have been working and saving hard. Your parents or carers might not be able to assist you either.

But don’t be discouraged – there are options to help you out financially.

If you do choose to go on to study at uni, college or TAFE, and you’re wondering how you’ll be able to cover the tuition fees and living expenses, we’re here to help.

In this blog, we’ll be focusing on HELP loans.


Commonwealth Supported Places


Almost every university in Australia offers undergraduate students Commonwealth Support Places (CSP).

If you’re awarded a CSP, it means that the government will cover the majority of your fees. But not all, so you will still have to pay a certain amount.

The amount you’ll have to pay is called your student contribution. This amount varies depending on the university and the course you enrol in, and can change every year. You can find the latest amounts on the Study Assist website here.


You can apply for a HECS-HELP loan to cover your student contribution costs


You’ll either have to pay your student contribution fees upfront…or you can apply for a HECS-HELP loan.

Because it is a loan, unfortunately that means you’ll have to repay the money. But you’re not obligated to make any repayments until you’re earning over a certain salary.

The amount you’ll have to earn before you have to start repaying your loan is set by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) and changes each year. So make sure to check with them so you know when you need to start making repayments.

As a guide, the 2022-2023 repayment threshold is $48,361 per year – so if you’re earning below that amount, you won’t have to start making repayments.

To apply for HECS-HELP you’ll need a tax file number (TFN). You’ll then need to fill out a Request for Commonwealth support and HECS-HELP form, supplied by your university or other provider. Make sure you submit the form before the census date, or you might have to pay your fees upfront.

If you’re unsure about the process or need assistance, make sure to contact your university or provider, and they can help walk you through the process.


For students who’ll have to pay full fees, there’s FEE-HELP loans


If you are awarded a university place where you’ll have to pay full fees, don’t stress.

You can apply for a government FEE-HELP loan to help you out. The money can only be used towards tuition fees, not other expenses like accommodation or books etc.

To apply for a FEE-HELP loan, you’ll need a tax file number (TFN) and you’ll need to submit a Request for FEE-HELP loan form to your course provider. Once again, ensure you fully complete it and submit it before the cut-off date.


Other HELP that could be an option for you


If your course provider charges you a student services and amenities fee, you can apply for an SA-HELP loan to help you cover those costs.

Note: the maximum you can be charged in 2022 is $315 – it may change in 2023 and subsequent years.

If you’re enrolled in a CSP and want to complete some of your studies overseas, you can apply for OS-HELP loan to go towards airfares, accommodation or other travel costs.


There’s HELP for vocational studies too


VET Student Loans (VSL) could cover some of your tuition fees if you’d like to study a Diploma-level qualification or above.

If you’re applying for a Certificate IV or lower level qualification, then you won’t be eligible for a VSL, but you can always ask your provider about other finance options.


The HELP loan limit available to you is significant


In 2022, the HELP loan limit is $109,206. If you apply to study medicine, dentistry or veterinary science, or eligible aviation courses, your HELP loan limit goes up to $156,847.

This is the maximum amount of money you can borrow from the government, and includes all of FEE-HELP, HECS-HELP and VSL combined. You don’t have to borrow up to the limit and it’s worth remembering that whatever you borrow, you’ll ultimately be paying back.

The amount of money you have borrowed and therefore amount of money left available for you to borrow is called your HELP balance.

You can keep an eye on your balance at myHELPbalance. You’ll need to know your CHESSN (Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Number) to log in.


The HELP balance is renewable


You can start making voluntary repayments at any time, and the money will be credited to your account.  This increases the amount available in your HELP balance and could make you eligible to take out further loans.

For example, if you have borrowed up to the HELP loan limit, but you work part time during your studies or get a holiday job, choosing to voluntarily repay $6,000 off your loans could mean you can access further study.


You’ll need to do some further research


Before you plan your future studies on the basis of what you’ve read here, you’ll need to find out a few things:

  • Are you eligible for these loans?
  • What are the requirements to ensure you remain eligible throughout your course? For example, for FEE-HELP you may have to obtain a minimum pass rate each year of your studies or your loan could be suspended.
  • Are there any additional fees and costs involved?
  • What are your responsibilities after you’ve graduated?
  • How and when you should start making compulsory repayments, or how to go about making voluntary repayments.


There are other options to help you pay your way too


If a HELP loan could help you cover the cost of your tuition fees, that’s one hurdle out of the way. But it’s not your only option.

Services Australia also provides financial assistance to students through Youth Allowance, Austudy and ABSTUDY.

You can also consider other things like scholarships, bursaries and grants to help you cover additional costs, including accommodation, books, living expenses and travel.

You can find heaps of scholarships currently open for applications in the Study Work Grow scholarship database.

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