The federal government provides a couple of different loans that allow students to defer all of part of their tuition fees until they are earning a certain level of income. The type of loan you receive will depend on whether you receive a Commonwealth supported or a full fee place.
This loan type is available to students who receive a Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP). These loans are available at public universities and in selected courses at private institutions. Commonwealth supported refers to uni places that are subsidised by the Government. Most undergraduate students study in Commonwealth supported places.
You can use HECS-HELP to pay all or part of your tuition fees.The government will pay your loan amount directly to your chosen uni, and once you qualify to begin repayments on the loan, small amounts will be automatically deducted from your income. You can always make voluntary payments as well. Your HELP debt is indexed each year in line with movements in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to maintain its real value, but is otherwise interest free.
You can get HECS-HELP for full time and part time study, and it does not have any bearing on your ability to receive Centrelink assistance.
In 2017, the HECS-HELP limit is $100,879. This is the total amount available to students over a lifetime. Repayments do not reset the maximum that can be borrowed. You are responsible for ensuring you don’t reach your limit.
To access HECS-HELP you must study with an approved HECS-HELP provider. As long as you have submitted the required application forms and you are enrolled in an eligible unit of study by the census date*, then you are eligible for HECS-HELP.
This loan type is available to students who receive a full-fee place. These loans are available at private institutions and at public universities for postgraduate students only.
FEE-HELP works pretty much like HECS-HELP except there is a 25% loan fee for FEE HELP loans for undergraduate courses (there is no loan fee for postgraduate courses). This is a lot, so if you are concerned about the costs of your degree, carefully think about your options before enrolling into an undergraduate course at a private college of university.
*By the way, in this context, 'census date' is the date early in each semester when your enrolment application becomes finalised. Before this date, you can withdraw from courses/subjects without incurring any HECS-HELP debt. (Usually you can try a course for a few weeks before you can withdraw without financial penalty). Your uni will inform you when the census date is. Go here for more jargon explainers.