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Paying off student loans

Most of us undertaking tertiary education will already know that HELP loans are covered by the Australian Government to allow us to study now and pay back later. But once you have your shiny new degree, do you know what happens with the loan that helped you get there? For example, do you know when you’re going to start paying it back and how much those payments will be? If you’re struggling to get a job in your field and it takes a little longer to start making those repayments, will you start paying interest on the money you owe? Perhaps you haven’t even given your HELP debt a thought since you graduated! For the questions you already had and the ones you didn’t know you had until just now, we uncover some of the important things you should be across when it comes to your HELP loan!

How Student Loans Work in Australia

In Australia, you are charged a tuition fee whenever you’re enrolled in a course which passes over the loan census date (the last day you can make a payment upfront, apply for a loan, or accept / withdraw from a course). If you continue with the course after the census date, or you fail the course, you will still be charged the full amount. So if you enrolled at University or TAFE, gave it a go and then withdrew just after the census date, you may have some debt that you weren’t aware of until now. If you’re fairly new to University you may have heard the terms HECs and HELP loans being used interchangeably - which can be pretty confusing! This is because the HECs program has now been absorbed into the HELP system, meaning they are essentially the same thing. To avoid confusion, this is more commonly referred to now as HECs-HELP. If you’ve just started studying a higher level VET course, you may have heard about a new thing called a ‘VET Student Loan’ which is slightly different from the old VET FEE-HELP scheme which ended back in 2017. For more information on the different types of loans visit

Helpful Tip: The costs of Tertiary Education don’t just stop at the fees you pay for courses (and parking). When you attend a university or higher education provider, you will be charged a student services and amenities fee (SSAF) to cover things such as food services, financial advice and recreational activities. Talk to your University or Higher Education provider to find out how you can include this in your HELP loan.

When do I start making repayments?

You have an obligation to start paying back your HELP debt as soon as you start bringing in income that falls within a certain bracket. You can find out more information about this at It’s a good idea to keep your eye on this, as it can change depending on government policy.

Do I pay interest or fees on my HELP loan?

Whilst there may be some fees, the good news is that you don’t have to pay interest on your HELP loan! A 20% loan fee applies to full-fee-paying or fee-for-service VET students, unless your enrolment is subsidised by a state or territory government. You can speak with a representative from your higher education provider to find out more on whether these fees will apply to you personally.

It is also very important to note that whilst you may not be paying interest (or fees in some cases), the amount of your HELP debt could increase with inflation rates. This is referred to as ‘indexation’ and means that your debt could be raised each year in line with the cost of living. In 2019 the indexation rate was 1.9 per cent, which means that if you had $10,000 left on your loan, you would now have $10,190 remaining.

How do I keep track of my student debt?

You can find your HELP debt online via the myGov website.

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