Full-fee places

Students in higher education courses are charged tuition fees based on the fee structure of their course. Here we explain full-fee places.

What is a full-fee place?

Full-fee places are not subsidised by the government. They are more expensive than CSP places because the entire cost is borne by the student, rather than just a partial contribution. For international students and most students studying at a private institution or at postgraduate level, a full-fee place is the only option. However, domestic students are eligible for FEE-HELP loans.

If you are considering a higher degree by research (a masters by research or a doctoral program), you are exempt from tuition fees through the Research Training Scheme (RTS) and may be able to access a number of financial assistance options. See Financial assistance for research students for more information.

Who is eligible for an Australian full-fee place?

Most students completing courses at private universities and other private higher education providers receive full-fee places, although CSP places may be available in certain courses. The majority of postgraduate students are also enrolled in full-fee places, although again there are some postgraduate courses that offer CSPs. See Commonwealth Supported Places for more information about the exceptions.

How much do full-fee students pay?

Fees are set by the individual institution for full-fee places and vary from course to course. High-demand courses such as law and those with high running costs, such as those with work-integrated learning components, can be particularly expensive. Note that course fees for hotel management schools generally take accommodation costs into account.

Loans for full-fee places (FEE-HELP)

Full-fee students may be able to defer payment of all or part of their tuition fees using the FEE-HELP government loan scheme. FEE-HELP is an interest-free, income-contingent loan that students do not have to pay back until their income reaches a certain level set by the government known as the minimum repayment threshold ($54,869 in 2016–17).

HELP loans are strictly designed to cover tuition fees and students do not receive additional loan options to cover items such as textbooks or computer equipment.

There is a limit on how much students can borrow through FEE-HELP, and this amount is indexed annually. The 2017 limit is $100,879 (or $126,101 for medicine, veterinary science and dentistry). This limit applies to both VET FEE-HELP and FEE-HELP loans, so keep this in mind if you intend to complete both a vocational and postgraduate qualification. Note that some courses cost more than these amounts, which may also be the case if you undertake a double degree program.

A loan fee of 25 per cent, which is not included in the FEE-HELP limit, applies to FEE-HELP loans for undergraduate courses. This applies to students at private institutions, including private universities and other higher education providers, who have not gained a Commonwealth Supported Place. There is no loan fee for postgraduate students using FEE-HELP.

HELP loans are not means-tested, so all eligible students can take out a loan – no matter what their income. For example, if you are a postgraduate student working full time and you are earning above the threshold, you can still defer part, or all, of your tuition fees. Likewise, taking out a HELP loan does not impact eligibility for government allowances.

It's also important to remember that not all institutions are eligible to offer FEE-HELP loans. While all universities and TAFE institutions are eligible, some private education providers may not be. If the provider you choose is not an approved FEE-HELP provider, you will be required to pay course fees upfront each semester. For more information about FEE-HELP and a list of approved providers, refer to the Study Assist website.

How do I apply for FEE-HELP?

  • When accepting your course offer you must also submit a FEE-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).
  • 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 for a HELP loan, you are approved for the duration of your course. You will only need to reapply if you change your course or institution.
  • You can take out a HELP loan for each qualification you complete. For example, if you complete a VET qualification (such as a diploma) followed by a bachelor degree, which you then follow with a masters degree, you can take out a relevant 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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