A student guide to accessing government financial assistance

A student guide to accessing government financial assistance

Tertiary education can be expensive, especially if you are moving away from home to study. Luckily, there are a number of government loans, scholarships and allowances that can support you during your studies. The only trick is that you’ll need to do your research and apply if you want to access these initiatives. With our help, you can organise your government assistance in five easy steps.

Step 1: Research your options

The government assistance you’re entitled to depends on your age, study mode, qualification level, institution type and income. The main allowances are Youth Allowance, which is available to full-time students and apprentices aged 16 to 24; Austudy, which is available to full-time students and apprentices aged 25 and over; and ABSTUDY, which assists Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and apprentices aged 16 and over. In addition to these allowances, the federal government offers assistance such as the Relocation Scholarship, which is an annual payment for ‘dependent’ students receiving Youth Allowance or ABSTUDY who need to live away from home to study. Eligible students can also defer their tuition fees through the federal government’s VET FEE-HELP, HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP loan schemes. See Degree costs and loans and VET costs and loans for details.

Step 2: Get advice from your institution

Most institutions have advisers on campus who can answer any questions you have about government assistance, scholarships or course fees. It is also worth booking an appointment at your local Centrelink office or keeping an eye out for representatives from the Department of Human Services on campus during O-Week. These representatives can give you further information about government assistance options, including application tips.

Step 3: Fill in and make sure you understand your paperwork

Applying for government assistance can take a bit of time. Your first step will be to register for a Centrelink account through the Department of Human Services website. You’ll need to answer questions about your income and assets, study details and accommodation circumstances in order to determine your eligibility for government assistance. As part of this process, you’ll be assessed as being either ‘dependent’ or ‘independent’. If you are 22 or over, you are automatically independent. If you are under 22, you may be considered independent if you have been supporting yourself through employment for more than 18 months (see the above link for full criteria information). Students who are considered dependent are assessed through a parental means test. This means that your eligibility will be based on your parents’ earnings and that they will need to supply supporting documents as part of your application.

4. Submit your applications, including evidentiary documents

Once you’ve submitted your online application, you’ll need to supply supporting documents. These may include a birth certificate or proof of residency, tax returns, payslips and rental contracts, as well as a parent/guardian information form for dependent students. You should be informed whether or not your application was successful within a few weeks of submitting supporting documentation. If you want to take advantage of HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP or VET FEE-HELP, you will be able to submit your application as part of your course enrolment.

5. Explore alternatives — just in case!

If you aren’t eligible for any government allowances, or just want to explore options for further assistance, it’s worth looking into some of the other financial assistance available to students. There are a number of scholarships available to tertiary students, and not all are dependent on your financial situation. Scholarships are offered by institutions, private organisations and the government, and are awarded to a wide range of students for many different reasons. Some scholarships may be offered to high-achieving students, while others are awarded based on areas such as community involvement or sporting achievement. If you are still strapped for cash or an unexpected expense arises, you may decide to apply for a student loan through your institution.

Whether or not you have access to government assistance, most students still undertake part-time work and learn to live on a budget during their study years.

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