What is HECS debt and how does it work?

When you’re getting ready for uni, it’s important to have an understanding of the finer details. Because when you’re armed with the right knowledge, making the big decisions – like knowing how to fund your uni experience – becomes easier. Now, if the cost of uni isn’t something you’ve really thought about, that’s completely fine. That’s where a little thing called HECS comes in. But what is HECS debt and how does it work? Let’s find out.

What is HECS debt?

The Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) is an integral part of the Australian higher education system. 

When you attend uni or an approved higher education provider, you’ll have the option to access HECS-HELP to pay for your studies. This means that each subject you take is added to your HECS loan and you won’t need to pay anything upfront (except your student contribution, of course).

Now, it’s important to note that you can only get a HECS-HELP loan if you’re enrolled in a Commonwealth-supported place (CSP). So, make sure you don’t accidentally select the full-fee paying option when you apply.

Who is HECS for?

As we now know, HECS is an option for students in a CSP place. But there are certain criteria that you’ll need to meet to be eligible for HECS-HELP.

To meet eligibility requirements, you’ll need to:

  • be enrolled in a Commonwealth supported place
  • be an Australian citizen and meet residency requirements or be a New Zealand Special Category Visa holder or permanent humanitarian visa holder and meet residency requirements
  • submit the Request for Commonwealth support and HECS-HELP form by census date
  • enrol in each unit/subject before census date
  • have available HELP balance.

What is a Commonwealth supported place?

A Commonwealth-supported place (CSP) is a university or higher education place where the Australian government pays part of your course fees. 

So, in short, it is a subsided place in your university course. The best part? You won’t have to pay the subsidised part of your course costs back!

What’s census date?

Put simply, census date is the final date that you’ll be able to finalise your enrolment or withdraw from any units of study without having to repay the cost of the subject.

It is also the last day that you can make an upfront payment for your course fees if you’re looking at this as an option. The census date is usually a few weeks into the session, so it’s important that you complete your enrolment and request Commonwealth support as early as possible.

But don’t worry too much, we’re here to help you navigate the enrolment process and will remind you to complete your documentation before the census date comes around.

How much can I borrow?

Now, we’ve established that the government subsidises CSP places at uni, but what does that mean for the remaining courses fees? Well, you can be confident that with HECS-HELP you won’t have to pay your fees upfront.

You can borrow up to the combined HELP loan limit to pay your tuition fees. And the HECS-HELP loan limit in 2021 is a whopping $108,232. So if you aspire to be a medical doctor or continue with postgraduate or research study later on, you’ll be able to achieve this with the government’s study assistance.

What will I need to apply for HECS-HELP?

Firstly, you’ll need to have a tax file number.

Secondly, you’ll need to complete a Request for Commonwealth support and HECS-HELP form that will be provided to you by Charles Sturt. You must fill in and submit this form to Charles Sturt before the census date.

How to repay your HECS debt

You’ll repay your HECS-HELP loan through the tax system once you start to earn above the compulsory repayment threshold.

So, for example, if you graduated in 2021 and you’re earning less than $46,620, your HECS repayments will be nil. The threshold will vary from year to year, so it’s best to refer to the Study Assist website.

Other financial support

There are plenty of options for you to get additional help with costs. One of the best ways to boost your finances and make the most of uni is to apply for a scholarship with Charles Sturt.

There is a broad range of scholarships on offer each year. And we offer more than $3 million in scholarships and grants to students just like you. Students who want to make the world a better place in a career they’re passionate about. So, sit down and search our scholarships to help make the cost of study easier.

Get your questions – about HECS debt or anything else – answered

Want to learn more about HECS debt, help with costs or the application process?

Get in touch. We’re here to help!