Commonwealth Supported Places

Students in higher education courses are charged tuition fees based on the fee structure of their course. Here we explain Commonwealth Supported Places.

In this section we cover:

What is a Commonwealth Supported Place?

Loans for CSP contributions (HECS-HELP)

What is a Commonwealth Supported Place?

Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs) are subsidised by the federal government and are available to domestic students in all undergraduate and some postgraduate courses at public universities, as well as in select courses at private universities and private higher education providers.

They are characterised by the following features:

  • Those who receive a CSP do not pay the full cost of their course. Instead they pay a smaller contribution (called the ‘student contribution’), with the government making up the difference.
  • CSP students can defer their subsidised fees through the HECS-HELP loan scheme until they are earning above the repayment threshold (refer to the eligibility conditions below for more information).

Who is eligible for a Commonwealth Supported Place?

To be eligible for a CSP, you must meet one of the following conditions:

  • be a citizen of Australia or New Zealand*
  • hold an Australian permanent residency visa
  • hold an Australian permanent humanitarian visa.

* Note that while New Zealand students may access CSPs, they are not eligible for the HECS-HELP loan scheme that allows fees to be deferred.

CSPs are offered to all domestic students completing undergraduate-level courses at Australian public universities. At private institutions and at postgraduate level they are less common, although they are available in certain cases, usually ‘priority’ courses such as education and nursing. At postgraduate level, CSPs are also fairly common in fields where postgraduate study is a requirement for employment and professional registration (in architecture, for example) or at universities that have introduced two-part degree structures, where broad undergraduate degrees are followed by specialist postgraduate study. CSPs are not available for Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses. See VET costs and loans for further information.

How much do CSP students pay?

If you are a CSP student, the cost of your course is based on the discipline you study. Study fields are divided into three ‘bands’, each with a different maximum cost per unit. These bands determine how much you pay for your studies over a single year, based on a full-time enrolment of eight units.

The following figures indicate the maximum CSP contribution rates for each band in the 2017 academic year.

Student contributions

Band 1

$0–6,256 (fields such as humanities, behavioural science, social studies, clinical psychology, foreign languages, visual and performing arts, education and nursing).

Band 2

$0–8,917 (fields such as mathematics, statistics, computing, built environment, health, engineering, science, surveying and agriculture).

Band 3

$0–10,440 (fields such as law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, accounting, administration, economics and commerce).

Costs are calculated unit by unit, which ensures that students are charged based on each subject they complete. This means that if your course includes subjects from a higher or lower band (and many do) then those subjects will be charged at a different rate. For example, if you are completing a degree that falls into the first band (such as a bachelor of arts) but undertake an elective in a higher band (a law subject, for example), you will be charged at the Band 3 rate for that subject. Some courses involve a combination of units that are classified differently — a nursing degree, for example, may include a combination of Band 1 and Band 2 rates.

Note: Previously, an extra band existed that included courses in mathematics, science and statistics. These fields were branded ‘national priority areas’ and were set in a lower fee category in order to attract students to study areas of national importance. This structure was discontinued in 2013, with these fields now charged at the Band 2 rate.

Do all institutions charge the same fees?

Universities and other higher education providers can choose to set the student contribution rate for each band between $0 and the maximum rates listed above. While some universities charge less than the maximum in some courses, it’s probably fair to say that the majority apply the maximum rates. You will usually find that the rates listed on the institution’s website and in course handbooks. If you have any questions, such as which band your course fits into or whether it combines study areas across different bands, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the institution you’re considering.

Loans for CSP contributions (HECS-HELP)

All CSP students are able to defer the payment of their student contribution through the HECS-HELP government loan scheme. This is an interest-free, income contingent loan that students do not have to start paying back until their income reaches the minimum repayment threshold ($54,869 in 2016–17). The loan is paid back through the tax system and is simply taken out of your wages, although you can choose to make repayments at any time (including up-front at the beginning of each semester). Note that the repayment threshold changes each year and is determined by the federal government.

HELP loans are not means-tested, so all eligible students can take out a loan — no matter what their income. For example, undergraduate students who are working while they study and are earning above the threshold can still defer part, or all, of their tuition fees. Likewise, taking out a HELP loan does not impact eligibility for government allowances.

Note that HELP loans cover tuition fees only, and students do not receive additional loan options to cover study-related items such as textbooks or computer equipment.

While fees do not attract interest, they are indexed in June each year to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index. This ensures that the loan maintains its real value. Unlike FEE-HELP, there is no limit on the money you can borrow under the HECS-HELP scheme. For more information about HECS-HELP, including a list of approved providers, refer to Study Assist .

How do I apply for HECS-HELP?

When accepting your course offer you must also submit a HECS-HELP form before your institution’s census date, which is usually a few weeks into each semester.

You must supply your tax file number (TFN) or, if you have applied but not yet received your TFN, a certificate of application (available from the Australian Taxation Office). HECS-HELP loan forms are generally completed electronically and are available through your institution’s online enrolment system. Check with your institution for specific details.

Once you have applied, you are approved for the duration of your course. You will only need to reapply if you change your course or institution.

You can receive HELP loans for each qualification you complete. For example, if you complete a VET qualification, followed by a bachelor degree, which you then follow with a masters degree, you can apply for a HELP loan in each instance. Just keep in mind that, while there is no limit for HECS-HELP, limits do apply to FEE-HELP and VET FEE-HELP.

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