In the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector, tuition costs depend on a number of things. The main factors that determine the amount you will pay are the fee structure of the VET course you are studying and the type of place you receive.
Domestic VET students studying at diploma level or above are eligible for the federal government's VET FEE-HELP scheme, which can be used to help cover part, or all, of the tuition fees for a course.
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VET students may be eligible for one of two types of places that determine fee structure: government-subsidised places and full-fee places.
The difference between these places, as in the university sector, comes down to government funding. In the case of VET, while government-subsidised places are subsidised by the government, full-fee places are not. When researching your study options, it's worth keeping in mind that some institutions only offer one option.
Government-subsidised places are partially funded by the government — the government will cover some of the cost of your course, and you will need to pay the remainder. These places are granted to eligible students who are enrolled in government-subsidised or (pay-by-the-hour) courses. These courses are available at TAFE institutes, but are not available at private providers in the VET sector.
Just keep in mind that not all courses at TAFE institutes are government-subsidised. Government-subsidised place eligibility requirements may include age, citizenship or residency status or completion of prior qualifications. Contact individual institutions for details.
Government-subsidised courses are charged at an hourly rate. In some states and territories, fees are capped at a certain maximum amount per year by the government. In others, fees are set by each provider and there are no restrictions on what institutions can charge, so prospective students need to do their research to find a course that is right for them. Hourly and maximum charges vary and additional costs for student services and amenities may apply, so you will need to check with individual institutions for details. To search for institutions, visit the Institution search.
Fee concessions and exemptions
If you hold a government-subsidised place and meet eligibility requirements, you may be entitled to a discount or exemption on your fees. Concessions are available to students who hold a valid concession card, such as a Commonwealth Health Care Card. Eligibility for fee exemption varies and may include certain target groups, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students or students who receive a disability pension. For more information, contact individual institutions.
Some institutions may also waive the fees of certain courses, such as those relating to work readiness and community training.
Students may receive a full-fee place if the course they are completing is not government subsidised (which is the case for VET courses offered by private providers, as well as some offered at TAFE institutes) or if they do not meet the eligibility requirements for a government-subsidised place. Courses where fees are not subsided by the government are known as full-fee courses (or fee-for-service courses). It probably goes without saying that students in full-fee places are required to pay for the entire cost of the course they are studying. There may be significant differences between government-subsidised fees and those for full-fee places.
Tuition fees for full-fee places are set by individual TAFE institutes and private providers, with no regulated minimum or maximum cost, so it is worth exploring your options to find the right course with a cost that you are happy with. Note that some institutions may stipulate a set fee per qualification level, while others will adjust fees for individual courses. For more information about fees, contact the institutions you are interested in. To search for institutions, visit the Institution search.
As in the higher education sector, eligible students studying higher-level VET courses can access government loans to defer the payment of part, or all, of their tuition costs until they are earning a set salary that meets the minimum repayment threshold ($54,869 in 2016-17).In the VET sector, this scheme is known as VET FEE-HELP. Note that VET FEE-HELP can only be used to assist with the payment of tuition fees, not extra costs such as uniforms or protective clothing, or course-required tools and equipment. It's also important to remember that not all institutions are eligible to offer VET FEE-HELP loans. While all TAFE institutions are eligible, some private education providers may not be.
To be eligible for the VET FEE-HELP loan, you must:
- meet citizenship or residency requirements
- be studying a course at or above diploma level (students studying certificate courses are not eligible)
- be enrolled in a full-fee place or a Victorian or South Australian government-subsidised place.
There is a limit on how much students can borrow through VET FEE-HELP, and this amount is indexed annually. The 2017 limit is $100,879, which applies to both VET FEE-HELP and FEE-HELP. Also note that there is a 20 per cent loan fee for VET FEE-HELP loans accessed by students in full-fee places, although this fee does not count towards your VET FEE-HELP limit.
HELP loans are not means-tested, so all eligible students can take out a loan — no matter what their income. For example, VET students who are working full time 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.
How do I apply for VET FEE-HELP?
When accepting your course offer you must also submit a VET 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 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.