Commonwealth supported place v fee-paying place

Two people working on a laptop and with a calculator discussing how to best afford study.
Smiling young couple accounting at home.

So, you’ve made the decision to undertake postgraduate study? Awesome. Whether you want to move from a job to a career, get a promotion, or change career direction, a postgraduate degree is going to pay some serious dividends. But you may be wondering how to make it as affordable as possible.

Well, we’ve got the lowdown. But first we’ll define the types of places (basically your spot on a course) you can be offered.

There are two types of place.

  • Commonwealth supported place
  • Fee-paying place

And we’re going to break down the differences for you right here.

Commonwealth supported place

A Commonwealth supported place – otherwise known as a CSP – gets the government involved. Basically, the federal government pays a proportion of your course fees. Good news. Though not all postgrad courses have CSP places, if you secure a CSP, you only need to contribute part of the cost of your course.

No surprises, this is referred to as the ‘student contribution’. You pay per subject, so if you take more subjects in one session than in another (and you can with us, because you’re in control), you’ll pay the contribution for the subjects you enrol in during that session.

You can choose to pay your student contribution upfront, or you could apply for a HECS-HELP loan. This is a government scheme that offers a low-interest loan that you begin to pay back when you earn over a certain level of salary.

To get a HECS-HELP loan, there are a few criteria you have to meet.

  • Naturally, you must be studying in a Commonwealth supported place.
  • You must be an Australian citizen or a New Zealand Special Category Visa holder or permanent humanitarian visa holder and meet the residency requirements.
  • You have to be enrolled in the subjects you would like the loan to apply to at a certain date in the term or session you’re studying them (called the census date).

Fee-paying place

Brace yourself, this may come as a shock. When you secure a fee-paying place it means you have to, wait for it… pay the fees.

Where do they come up with these names?

Anyway, a fee-paying place doesn’t come with any government subsidy; it’s all ‘student contribution’.

But that doesn’t mean you’ll have to actually cover the total cost. There are a few ways that fees can be reduced or deferred. Let’s start with deferral.

While the government won’t pay any of your fees, they do offer low-interest loans to cover some or all of the cost. You only start paying the loan back when you reach a certain level of employment income.

The program is called FEE-HELP and it’s pretty easy to set up. The same criteria apply as for a CSP, except, you know, you have to be studying in a fee-paying place.

If you successfully apply for a FEE-HELP loan, the amount you receive is paid directly to the university. So, no need to set up direct debits or anything like that. It’s then recorded with the Australian Taxation Office and your repayments are automatically applied through the taxation system when your earnings hit a certain level.

Given that the 2019 QILT Graduate Outcomes Survey showed that people with a postgraduate degree earn around $20,000 a year more than those with just a bachelor’s, the likelihood is that you’ll have paid your loan off in no time.

Help with costs

There are several avenues that could help you reduce the fees you pay for your postgraduate course.

1. Employer contribution

Your employer might consider contributing if the course is related to your current role. You may need to commit to stay there for a certain period of time so that your new skills benefit the business, but if you enjoy your work and want to progress in your firm, it can’t hurt to ask, can it?

2. Tax deduction

If your course is related to your job you could claim it as a tax deduction. The course has to meet the following criteria to be eligible for a ‘self-education deduction’.

  • The course must maintain or improve the specific skills or knowledge you require in your current work activities.
  • The course must result in, or be likely to result in, an increase in your income from your current work activities.

3. Scholarships

We offer more than $3m in scholarships and grants that can make getting qualified that bit easier.

A Charles Sturt scholarship can help cover costs like textbooks, travel and attending work placements. There are dedicated scholarships for postgraduate and online students, and you could be eligible to apply for more than one.

The key step to getting a scholarship? Apply!

4. Alumni discount

If you’re a Charles Sturt University alumni, you can benefit from a 10 per cent discount on any future courses. So, if you want to come back to pursue more study, you’ll be ahead of the game before you start.  

Taking the next step

Whether in a Commonwealth supported place or a fee-paying one, we’re here to help you take your next step. You can speak to the experienced Charles Sturt University financial team to get advice and info on everything finance. We can help you apply for scholarships, as well as government schemes like HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP, and grants for specific aspects of your study like attending residential schools.

To start, book a virtual consult with one of our team and let’s make it happen.