Repayment of Loan - Overseas Obligation
The Australian Government has introduced changes relating to Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) repayment obligations for students with a HELP debt who are living and working overseas.
From 1 July 2017 students will need to work out their worldwide income for the 2016-17 income year and report this information to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) by lodging it online via myGov or through a registered Australian tax agent.
The first repayment will commence from 1 July 2017 based on the worldwide income for the 2016/17 income year. Similarly to if you were living and working in Australia, if you live and work overseas and earn worldwide income that exceeds the minimum HELP repayment thresholds, you will be required to make repayments against your loan.
These overseas repayment arrangements apply to all study loan schemes: HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP, OS-HELP and SA-HELP.
For further information on the changes to HELP repayment obligations, see the study assist or overseas obligation FAQ page, alternatively the ATO website.
Removal of the HECS-HELP discount and the HELP voluntary repayment bonus
From 1 January 2017, the Australian Government will remove the upfront HECS-HELP discount of 10 per cent for eligible students that pay their student contributions upfront and the voluntary HELP repayment bonus of 5 per cent.
Removal of the 10% HECS-HELP discount
The removal of the upfront discount will only affect students who choose to pay their tuition fees upfront. It will not affect students who access a HECS-HELP deferred loan.
From 1 January 2017, this discount will no longer exist. Until then, you can still get the HECS-HELP discount for units that have a census date on or before 31 December 2016. For more information about upfront payments and the HECS-HELP discount, visit the Study Assist website.
Removal of the 5% voluntary HELP repayment bonus
There are only a few months left to make a voluntary repayment of your HELP debt to the ATO and get the 5% HELP voluntary repayment bonus.
The bonus for voluntary repayments will only affect students who choose to make voluntary repayments above what is required when annual tax returns are assessed. If you are an eligible student who chooses to make a $500 voluntary repayment (which is in addition to compulsory repayments) of your HELP debt to the ATO, you will receive a bonus of 5%.
From 1 January 2017, the bonus will no longer exist. Until then, current arrangements still apply for voluntary repayments made to the ATO which are processed by 31 December 2016. For more information, visit the Study Assist website or the ATO website.
Please note, the ATO will be closed from midday 23 December 2016 until 3 January 2017. ATO online services will also be unavailable during this time. Please visit Study assist for further instructions on how to make voluntary payment.
Changes affecting Commonwealth Supported Students
The following information details the changes and proposed changes to Commonwealth supported places, including those that have occurred in previous years.
New Zealand Special Category Visa holder eligibility
From 1 January 2016, eligible New Zealand Special Category Visa (SCV) holders who meet the requisite criteria will be able to access Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) loans.
It is important to note that not all New Zealand citizens, or holders of a Special Category Visa are automatically entitled to access HELP loans. Please refer to the required eligibility criteria below.
To find out if you are eligible and how to apply for HELP loans, view the eligibility criteria for New Zealand Special Visa Category (SCV) holders.
New Zealand citizens who gain permanent residency (PR) in Australia would lose their SCV status.
That is, if you lose your SCV status for any reason, you would become ineligible for HELP for all units of study with census dates after the date your SCV status is lost.
For further information, please visit StudyAssist website.
From 1 January 2012, the up-front HECS-HELP discount for eligible students (Australian citizens and Permanent Humanitarian visa holders) upon upfront payment of their student contribution (totalling $500 or more) attracted a 10% discount, instead of the 20% discount offered pre-2012. This was in accordance with the Higher Education Support Act 2003.
In addition, the HELP voluntary repayment bonus (applied to upfront voluntary payments of $500 or more), received by eligible students who paid directly to the Australian Taxation Office, was reduced from 10% to 5%.
Student Learning Entitlement (SLE) was introduced to Australia on 1 January 2005. The system allocated eligible students an Equivalent Full Time Study Load (EFTSL) value of 7.0, which entitled them to 7 years of equivalent full time study as Commonwealth Supported students. A student's SLE was reduced by the EFTSL value of their unit(s) of study.
On 14 September 2011 Parliament passed legislation which abolished SLE, effective from 1 January 2012. Under the provisions of the Bill, higher education students no longer have a limit placed on how much study they can undertake as a Commonwealth Supported student.
Continuing students need not be concerned by any limits formerly placed on them by the operation of SLE. Students who have used up their SLE will now be able to continue study in a Commonwealth Supported place without restriction.
Further information about the abolition of the SLE system is available via the Australian Government's Study Assist website's glossary.
Changes to legislation made in 2010 under the Higher Education Support Amendment (FEE-HELP Loan Fee) Bill 2010, mean that the loan fee for FEE-HELP increased from 20% to 25% for undergraduate units of study with census dates on or after 1 January 2011.
In the 2008 Federal Budget, changes were made to reduce the maximum student contribution amount for units of study in mathematics, statistics and science. The lower contribution amount applies to students who commence/d their course on or after 1 January 2009 and some existing students who transfer/red from a course of study that is not in the natural and physical sciences to one that is. Current students (other than the transferring students described above) continue under existing arrangements.
Between 1 January 2009 and December 2012, students who transferred from a course of study that was not in the natural and physical sciences to one that was were eligible to retain their Pre-2008 status for units of study in accounting, administration, economics, and commerce; as well as their post-2008 status for units of study in mathematics, statistics and science.
In the 2007 Federal Budget, changes were made to increase the maximum student contribution amount for units of study in accounting, administration, economics, and commerce. These increases did not apply to pre-2008 students until the end of 2012.
As of 31 December 2008, students who were in the transitional HECS/PELS arrangement (pre 1997 and pre-2005) were no longer entitled to lower fees, and New Zealand citizens or holders of a permanent residence visa (excluding Permanent Resident Humanitarian status) were no longer eligible for HELP loans.