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Changes to the Higher Education Loan Program for New Zealand citizens

The Australian Government has announced that from 1 January 2018, Australia will open up its Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) to all New Zealand citizens as part of new arrangements designed to maximise access to higher education and vocational education and training in Australia. The changes are subject to the passage of legislation.

Under the new arrangements, New Zealand citizens will be the only nationality able to access HELP loans without first obtaining Australian citizenship or a permanent-residency visa.

Until now, most New Zealanders had to pay upfront fees for their tertiary tuition.  The decision to extend eligibility for HELP to New Zealanders means that students will be able to defer payment of their tuition fees through a student loan from the government. This removes the barrier of upfront costs.

HELP is recognised as one of the most generous student loan schemes in the world.  HELP is income-contingent and a genuine interest-free loan.  Students will be able to defer the costs of their study until they earn over the minimum repayment threshold (proposed to be $42,000 in 2018-19). 

Students in a fee-paying place can borrow up to the lifetime FEE-HELP limit. For 2017, this is $100,879 for most students and $126,101 for students undertaking medicine, dentistry, and veterinary science courses. There is also a 25 per cent loan fee for FEE-HELP loans for undergraduate courses and 20 per cent loan fee for VET student loans for full fee-paying courses.

There will be no prior residency requirement to be able to access a HELP loan, so New Zealand citizens may enrol in 2018 with immediate access to a HELP loan, as long as they reside in Australia for the duration of their studies.

The Australian Government has also announced changes to eligibility for federally subsidised tertiary places.  Subject to the passage of legislation, most students who are not Australian citizens will no longer be eligible for government subsidised university places.  The costs associated with a non-subsidised place vary according to institution and course of study.

New Zealand citizens who arrived in Australia as children and who are long‑term residents (at least eight of the past ten years and 18 months out of the last two years) will continue to be eligible for both subsidised tuition and a HELP loan.

NZ students already enrolled in a government-subsidised place may remain in the scheme until they complete that course. 

NZ students will also have access to VET student loans from 1 January 2018, removing the financial barriers to vocational education and training.

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