Fund your future: payment options for further education

Posted October 13, 2011, by Josie Chun

They say studying is an investment in your future. As true as that may be, with the promise of greater earnings once you’ve gained extra qualifications, the most immediate question on many prospective students’ minds is: How am I going to finance my studies? The immediate challenges of buying food and paying rent can sometimes outweigh more long-term goals.

The good news is there are numerous opportunities for financial support available to those who want to undertake further study. Whether you choose to study on campus or by distance, the range of financial assistance programs available from the government, course providers or your employer means the only thing you’ll have to worry about is passing your exams.

Employer-sponsored education

If you’re interested in upskilling or doing a short course, it’s certainly worth talking to your employer. Your company may be happy to pay your fees if the course helps develop skills in your area.

Some employers offer paid study leave, a study allowance or cadetship with a guaranteed job upon graduation. KPMG, for example, offers cadetships to students intending to study a commerce or business degree majoring in accounting or information systems. Cadets work full-time and study part-time for the first two years, with substantial study leave and time off to attend lectures. In the third and fourth years, the cadet attends university full-time and works during vacations, with vacation income supplemented by a weekly allowance. Upon graduation, cadets commence permanent full-time employment with KPMG.

Many companies support ongoing study and/or postgraduate study by their employees. Auditing and financial services firm Deloitte provides up to $20 000 of support for its employees to undertake CA (Chartered Accountant) studies, and many other organisations have similar programs.

Study now, pay later

For those of you who don’t have thousands of dollars lying around to pay your tuition fees upfront, have no fear: the Australian government offers interest-free student loans to eligible students which can be paid off once you start making a certain income.

HECS-HELP is a loan available to eligible Australian students studying a higher education qualification at a Commonwealth-supported institution. This means the Australian Government pays all or part of your student contribution directly to the education provider on your behalf.

FEE-HELP is a government-supported loan scheme for eligible fee-paying university students to help pay their tuition fees when they attend a non-Commonwealth-supported institution. Over 70 per cent of Australian students take advantage of FEE-HELP. It is available to both commencing and continuing students, and eligibility is independent of age or income. As of 2017 the limit of FEE-HELP loans for most students is $100,879 for most students (reviewed annually).

VET FEE-HELP is a student loan scheme for the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector that is part of the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP). VET FEE-HELP assists eligible fee-paying students undertaking accredited VET courses (diploma, advanced diploma, graduate certificate and graduate diploma courses) when they study with an approved VET provider. Both part-time and full-time students are eligible, and the same lifetime limit applies as with FEE-HELP.

Your HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP or VET FEE-HELP debt is recorded with the Australian Tax Office and you start making repayments once your income reaches the minimum threshold ($55,874 for 2017-18).

To be eligible for HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP or VET FEE-HELP you must be an Australian citizen, permanent humanitarian visa holder or permanent residency visa holder.

Government assistance

Austudy is a government study allowance that provides financial assistance to Australians who are 25 years or older and studying full-time at an approved institution, or undertaking a full-time Australian apprenticeship. Youth Allowance is a comparable allowance granted to full-time Australian students or apprentices between the ages of 16 and 24.

Abstudy is a government study allowance specifically for Indigenous secondary or tertiary students or full-time Australian apprentices.

Full-time courses approved for Austudy/Abstudy or Youth Allowance include secondary education courses, undergraduate courses, graduate courses and some masters, diplomas and TAFE courses.

Depending on your situation, you might also be eligible for extra payments to help with the costs of studying a tertiary-level or bridging course. Incidentals Allowance is a non-means tested allowance that helps you pay for general course expenses.


There are a number of government-sponsored scholarships available. Student Start-up Scholarships are given to all full-time students undertaking an approved course at a higher education institution who are receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy or an Abstudy Living Allowance. You’ll receive this scholarship for each year of your course, which was valued at $2050 for 2013.

Eligible university students receiving student income support who have to relocate to study will also receive a Relocation Scholarship of $4048 in their first year and $1012 in subsequent years to assist with the costs of relocating.

The Commonwealth Scholarships Program (formally known as the Commonwealth Learning Scholarships Program) provides financial assistance to students of higher education from low socioeconomic backgrounds, particularly those from rural and regional areas and Indigenous students. To be eligible, you must be an Australian citizen or Australian permanent humanitarian visa holder.

The Australian Postgraduate Awards (APA) are scholarships for students of exceptional research potential who undertake a higher degree by research. You must be an Australian or New Zealand citizen, or Australian permanent resident, to apply.

Many course providers also offer financial support or scholarships for certain programs, so it’s worth looking into what opportunities your particular educational institution offers.

Pay by instalment

Most education providers offer you a choice in payment options, allowing you to either pay a lump sum upfront or in regular instalments. Paying in instalments can be more manageable for those who don’t have the cash upfront, allowing you to spread the costs of study over a longer period.

However, keep in mind that paying for the entire course at the outset can sometimes deliver you an attractive discount. Most Open Colleges courses, for instance, offer a 10 per cent discount on upfront payments for courses.

Bank loan

If you’re not eligible for a Commonwealth-sponsored loan, you can always consider taking out a private loan. Unlike the government student loans, a private loan will attract interest which will have to be repaid on top of the loan amount itself, but it could be worth it if it helps you get the education you need to launch a successful career.

Many of our courses offer financial support including FEE-HELP, VET FEE-HELP, Austudy/Abstudy and Youth Allowance. Browse over 700 courses to get ahead in your career.

Josie Chun

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