On this page, you will find important information you need to know before you start your higher education or VET studies.
Tips for getting a HELP loan
1. Get a tax file number (TFN) early!
If you want to use a HELP loan or a Vet Student Loan to pay for your study, you must submit your valid TFN (or valid Certificate of application for a TFN) by the census date. Otherwise, you will not be able to use a loan for that study period.
- Your TFN is a unique number allocated to you by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) for tax, HELP repayments (including VET Student Loans and VET FEE-HELP) and other purposes. When you access a HELP loan, including a VET Student Loan, the debt is recorded against your TFN and repayments are made via the tax system.
- You must advise your provider of your TFN within 21 days of receiving it. You have to provide your TFN because repayments on your HELP debt are made through the Australian taxation system. You must keep your TFN secure. More information is available in the VET Student Loans information booklet 2017.
- If you do not have a TFN yet because you do not have a job, you must apply to the ATO for one.
- Keep your TFN secure and treat it like your bank pin. HELP debts are recorded against your TFN so you must be sure about who you're giving your TFN out to.
- If your information is not assessed as correct by the ATO, your application will not be finalised and you will be ineligible for a HELP loan.
2. Why do you need to protect your TFN?
Your TFN is an important part of establishing your identity when you start a new job, open bank accounts and apply for government benefits.
How can you keep your TFN secure?
Keep your TFN (and other personal details such as bank account passwords) secure by:
- not carrying them in your purse or wallet and not storing them in your mobile phone,
- not sharing them with friends (including on social networking websites),
- disposing of documents containing identity details by shredding or otherwise destroying them,
- installing up-to-date anti-virus software on your computer, and
- only providing your identity details to trusted or reliable organisations.
You can visit www.ato.gov.au for more information about TFNs and protecting your personal information.
3. Who should you provide your TFN to, in order to access a HELP loan (including VET Student Loans)?
- You should only provide your TFN to access a HELP loan (including a VET Student Loan) once you have decided to undertake your course. Ensure you know exactly who you are providing your TFN to, and don’t be afraid to ask for proof of identity from anyone asking for your TFN.
- Once you have expressed interest in enrolling in a course, your institution will assess your eligibility to undertake the course (i.e. whether you have the correct foundation knowledge to commence/will have to undertake an enabling course before enrolling).
Be mindful of who you provide your TFN/personal information to.
- You should be aware that some education institutions use a marketing agent/broker to advertise their courses and enrol students. These agents/brokers DO NOT work for the Australian Government. You may see these agents/brokers at the train station, shopping mall, or outside other public places. They may even knock on your door or phone you. These marketing agents/brokers are required to identify themselves to you as someone acting on behalf of the relevant institution. If you decide to proceed with enrolling with the marketing agent/broker, you may need to provide them with some personal details. If you are uncomfortable doing this, you can instead enrol directly with the institution. However, never provide these marketing agents/brokers with your username or password from government agencies like Centrelink or MyGov.
- Similarly, you should be wary of any education institution/marketing agent/broker offering you a free computer, tablet, phone, or other incentive to enrol. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Although most marketing agents/brokers do the right thing when recruiting students, there are some that don't. Some may try to pressure or trick you into handling over your TFN and other information like your name and date of birth. Remember, HELP debts including VET Student Loans are recorded against your TFN – so be careful of who you give this information to and do not give your TFN out just to obtain a ‘free’ product.
If you are considering undertaking a Vocational Education and Training course and an education agent/broker approaches you and offers to sign you up for a course where there is access to VET Student Loans, this practice is not acceptable. Greater protections are now in place for students and broker activity, and the offering of incentives and cold calling are banned. Visit www.education.gov.au/vet-student-loans for more information.
4. Know your census date (deadline)
- Census dates are critical to requesting Commonwealth assistance/finalising your payment arrangements so that your enrolment is not cancelled. See Deadlines and withdrawals for more information.
- If eligible, the census date is the last day you can access a HELP loan or a VET Student Loan to pay for your studies, or to withdraw your enrolment without incurring the fees or a HELP debt (including a VET Student Loans debt) for your studies. Even one day is too late, so don’t be caught out! Saying you were unaware of your census date, or that no-one told you, are not acceptable excuses.
- Education providers set their own census dates, within rules set by the Australian Government. You must contact your education institution for information about when your census date is.
- To withdraw from a unit or course without incurring a HELP debt (including a VET Student Loans debt) or losing an upfront payment, you need to complete your institution’s formal withdrawal procedures by the census date. You need to complete the formal withdrawal process for every unit you want to withdraw from, including any units for future study periods. If the course you want to withdraw from involved enrolling at more than one institution, you will need to withdraw from each institution separately. For more information about the correct withdrawal procedures, contact your institution directly.
General tips for your studies
1. What are your provider’s student policies?
- Your provider is your number one source of information for study-related queries. Student administration staff will be able to assist you with all enrolment and administration matters, or they will direct you to the appropriate area.
- Find out your provider’s policy for contacting students. If its policy is to contact you by an in-house email system (e.g. a student mail account), it is your responsibility to check your email on a regular basis, either on campus or at your local public library. If you cannot access Commonwealth assistance or your enrolment is cancelled because you missed the census date, claiming you did not have access to email or being unaware you had to check your email are not acceptable excuses.
- Find out your provider’s academic probation policy. If you are not progressing satisfactorily in your course your provider may choose to cancel your enrolment, regardless of whether you have already incurred a HELP debt or made an upfront payment for that study.
- If you are undertaking a vocational education and training (VET) course, you must ensure you have registered for a Unique Student Identifier (USI) at www.usi.gov.au (Opens in a new window).
2. You are responsible for your own education.
- Due to privacy requirements, providers cannot disclose information to your spouse, parent or anyone else about your payment details, HELP loan or VET Student Loan, attendance or other personal matters.
- If you remain enrolled in a unit past the census date but choose not to attend any classes or hand in any assignments your provider is not obligated to find out why. You will incur the full student contribution amount/tuition fee or HELP debt for that unit.
3. Get involved!
If you are studying online or by distance, social media pages, blogs and online discussion groups are excellent avenues for connecting with fellow students.
4. Are you the first in your family to go to uni?
The First in Family (opens in a new window) website is designed to assist current and intending university students who are the first in their immediate family to go to university, in addition to supporting their families, and those who work within the higher education sector.
The dedicated resources on that website are designed to ensure a successful transition into the university environment.
5.What can you do if you have a complaint?
As a domestic student, if you are not satisfied with the quality of service or training being provided, and you think your provider is breaching or has breached its legal requirements, your first course of action is to have your complaint investigated through your provider’s internal complaints and appeals process. You can refer to your provider’s website for detailed information about this process.
If you are enrolled at an approved VET FEE-HELP or VET Students Loans provider, and you want to make a complaint, the information on how to do so is available at: http://www.education.gov.au/vet-student-loans/vet-fee-help-complaints.
Information for domestic higher education students is available from the grievances page.
The forms are only available from approved providers. Contact the student administration/enrolments area at your approved provider for further information.
From 1 January 2017, your VET Student Loans provider will ask you to complete an online version of the Request for Commonwealth assistance form which is known as the Government electronic Commonwealth Assistance Form (eCAF). When you enrol in your course, if you advise your provider that you wish to access a VET Student Loan, the Australian Government will send you a link to the online form. You will need to complete some particulars and submit this electronically. Please refer to the VET Student Loans information booklet 2017.