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HECS-HELP

Important notice — 2018 Student Loan Sustainability Bill

The 2018 Student Loan Sustainability Bill contains a number of measures that affect Higher Education and Vocational Education and Training students.

From 1 January 2020, a combined HELP loan limit will replace the FEE-HELP limit and will include FEE-HELP, VET Student Loans, VET FEE-HELP and HECS-HELP.

Only new HECS-HELP borrowing will count towards a person's HELP limit. This means that any HECS-HELP loans borrowed before 2020 will not count towards the new HELP limit.

Any FEE-HELP, VET FEE-HELP or VET Student Loans that counted towards your FEE-HELP limit will count towards the new HELP limit.

From the 2019- 20 income year, you can top up your HELP balance by making repayments on your loan.

Repayments starting from the 2019-20 income year will top up a person's HELP balance.

Any compulsory or voluntary repayments can be re-borrowed in the future, up to the current HELP loan limit.


What is HECS‑HELP?

HECS‑HELP is a loan scheme for eligible students enrolled in Commonwealth supported places to pay their student contribution amounts. It cannot be used for additional study costs such as accommodation or text books.

From 1 January 2020, there will be limit to how much HECS-HELP you can borrow. The new 'combined HELP loan limit' will replace the FEE-HELP limit and include FEE-HELP, VET Student Loans, VET FEE-HELP and HECS-HELP. The 'combined HELP loan limit' is a cap, limiting the amount of HELP an individual can borrow. 

Only new HECS-HELP borrowing will count towards a person's HELP limit. This means that any HECS-HELP loans borrowed before 2020 will not count towards the new HELP limit.

However, any FEE-HELP, VET FEE-HELP or VET Student Loans that counted towards your FEE-HELP limit will count towards the new HELP limit.

For 2019, the combined HELP loan limit will be $104,440 for most students. For students undertaking medicine, dentistry and veterinary science courses, the HELP loan limit will be $150,000.

From the 2019-20 income year, you can top up your HELP balance by making repayments on your loan. Repayments starting from the 2019-20 income year will top up a person's HELP balance. Any compulsory or voluntary repayments can be re-borrowed in the future, up to the current HELP loan limit.

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Am I eligible for HECS‑HELP?

To be eligible for HECS‑HELP, you must:

  • be studying in a Commonwealth supported place;
  • be an Australian citizen; or
  • be a New Zealand Special Category Visa holder who meets the long-term residency requirements; or
  • be a permanent humanitarian visa holder;
  • be enrolled in each unit at your university by the census date;
  • meet the relevant HECS-HELP residency requirements;
  • read the HECS‑HELP and Commonwealth supported places information booklet; and
  • submit a valid Request for Commonwealth support and HECS‑HELP form by the census date (or earlier administrative date) to your university.

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What are the HECS-HELP residency requirements?

For Australian citizens

If you are an Australian citizen you will meet the HECS-HELP residency requirements if your university reasonably expects that you will undertake at least some of your course of study in Australia.

You will not meet the HECS-HELP residency requirements if your university reasonably expects that you will not undertake any of your course in Australia. For example, if you intend on studying overseas via distance education for your entire course, then you would not meet the HECS-HELP residency requirements.

You will need to confirm with your university as to what their expectations are in relation to the residency requirements. In addition to HECS-HELP residency requirements, universities often have their own specific requirements for distance education students – for example, it is not uncommon for universities to expect that their distance education students complete a portion of their studies on-campus in Australia, which could be one unit, or one semester etc.

For eligible New Zealand Special Category Visa holders

If you are a New Zealand Special Category Visa (NZ SCV) holder (who meets the specific NZ SCV residency requirements for HELP loans), you must be resident in Australia for the duration of your unit(s) to meet the HECS-HELP residency requirements (this is because you lose this visa, and hence your eligibility under the long-term NZ SCV provisions once you depart Australia). However, any period of residence outside Australia will be disregarded if:

  • it cannot reasonably be regarded as indicating an intention to reside outside Australia for the duration of the unit; or
  • it is required for the purpose of completing a requirement of that unit.

For permanent humanitarian visa holders

If you are a permanent humanitarian visa holder, you must be resident in Australia for the duration of your unit(s) to meet the HECS-HELP residency requirements. However, any period of residence outside Australia will be disregarded if:

  • it cannot reasonably be regarded as indicating an intention to reside outside Australia for the duration of the unit; or
  • it is required for the purpose of completing a requirement of that unit.

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Who is not eligible for HECS-HELP?

If you are a permanent (non-humanitarian) visa holder, or a New Zealand citizen (who either does not meet the NZ SCV residency requirements for HELP loans or does not hold Australian citizenship), you are not eligible for HECS-HELP. You must pay your student contributions upfront to your university by the census date.

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How much will a HECS‑HELP loan cost me?

There is no real interest charged on HECS‑HELP loans. However, your debt will be indexed each year to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index to maintain its real value.

The indexation adjustment is made by the Australian Taxation Office on 1 June each year and applies to the portion of your debt that has been unpaid for 11 months or more. For more information see Interest and indexation.

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Can I change my payment option?

You can change your HECS‑HELP payment option before the census date (or earlier administrative date) for the relevant study period. If you have not made an upfront payment by the census date, any unpaid student contribution amount at the end of the census date will be deferred automatically as a HECS‑HELP loan (and become a HELP debt), provided you have included your TFN (if your information is not assessed as correct by the ATO, your application will not be finalised and you will be ineligible for a HECS-HELP loan) on your submitted Request for Commonwealth support and HECS‑HELP form.

If you have any further queries about changing your payment option, the student administration/enrolments area of your university will be able to assist you.

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How do I repay my HECS‑HELP loan?

See Paying back my loan for more information on repaying your HECS‑HELP loan.

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Need more information?

Please see our Frequently Asked Questions or ask a question via the Contact us page.

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