Higher education providers may offer domestic students either a ‘Commonwealth supported place’ or a ‘fee-paying place’.

To be eligible for a Commonwealth supported place you must be:

  • an Australian citizen, who will live and study in Australia for some of the course, or
  • a New Zealand citizen, who will live and study in Australia for the whole course, or
  • a permanent visa holder, who will live and study in Australia for the whole course

In South Australia and the Northern Territory most domestic undergraduate students will be Commonwealth supported students.

Commonwealth supported places are not available to international students.

Only some postgraduate courses are Commonwealth supported for domestic students. Most are offered on a fee-paying basis. You can check whether the postgraduate course you’re interested in is Commonwealth supported or fee-paying in course search, or contact the university concerned for more information.

Commonwealth supported students

The Australian Government subsidises Commonwealth supported places. This means the Government contributes part of the cost of higher education for Commonwealth supported students. Students contribute the rest through their ‘student contribution amount’.

Each higher education provider sets its own student contribution amounts for each unit of study, within limits set by the Australian Government. Student contributions may vary between higher education providers and courses. For up-to-date information, check the institutions’ websites.

Student contribution table for commencing Commonwealth supported students
Band Student contribution in 2020 (per EFTSL)
Band 1
(humanities, behavioural science, social studies, clinical psychology, foreign languages, visual and performing arts, education, nursing)
$0 to $6,684
Band 2
(computing, built environment, other health, allied health, engineering, surveying, agriculture, mathematics, statistics, science)
$0 to $9,527
Band 3
(law, dentistry, medicine, veterinary science, accounting, administration, economics, commerce)
$0 to $111,155

Course costs will depend on the individual subjects chosen. These maximum student contributions were for full-time students for a full year. The maximum is indexed each year according to movements in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

More information on student contributions is available from Study Assist.

Fee-paying students

The Australian Government does not contribute to course costs for fee-paying students. These students pay a ‘tuition fee’.

Each higher education provider sets its own tuition fees for each course, so the tuition fees will vary between providers and courses. The Government sets a minimum for tuition fees. For domestic students, tuition fees will be equal to or more than the student contributions paid by Commonwealth supported students in the same course.

Higher Education Loan Program (HELP)

You can choose to pay your student contribution or tuition fee upfront or – if you're eligible – request a Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) loan.

The two main types of HELP loans are:

  • HECS-HELP, for eligible Commonwealth supported students to pay their student contribution
  • FEE-HELP, for eligible fee-paying students to pay their tuition fees

To be eligible for a HELP loan, Australian citizens must study at least part of their course in Australia.

Permanent visa holders and New Zealand citizens who either do not meet the NZ SCV residency requirements for HELP loans or do not hold Australian citizenship, may have access to a Commonwealth supported place, but are not eligible for HELP loans. These students must pay their fees upfront.

If you want to access a HELP loan you will need to provide your Tax File Number to your higher education provider by the census date.

More information is available from Study Assist or the Australian Taxation Office.

VET Student Loans for eligible fee-paying students

VET Student Loans (VSL) help students cover tuition fees for VET courses. Loans are available for approved courses at diploma level or above.

To be eligible for VSL, students must meet citizenship/residency requirements and meet student entry requirements.

Information about VET Student Loans is available from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

Repaying a HELP loan

If you have a HELP debt you must make compulsory repayments through income tax assessments once your income reaches the minimum repayment threshold. For the 2020-21 income year the threshold is $46,620. For the 2019-20 income year the threshold was $45,881.

The amount of any compulsory repayment to be made depends on your income each income year. You can also make voluntary repayments direct to the ATO to reduce your HELP debt. 

More information on the repayment of HELP loans is available from Study Assist or the ATO or phone 13 28 61.

Unique Student Identifier (USI)

The Unique Student Identifier (USI) is an individual education identifier that stays with you for life. It creates an online record of your training and education in Australia.

The Australian Government is extending the USI to higher education students in 2021.

All students commencing in a Commonwealth Supported Place in 2021 must have a USI by the census date.

By 2023, all higher education students will need a USI to receive their award in 2023 or beyond. This includes students who started before 2021 and all international onshore students.

Continuing students can create their USI anytime between now and 2023.

SATAC may ask you to provide us with your USI. You will also need to include your USI when you apply for a HELP loan.

You can check if you already have a USI from previous vocational education or training, or create one online

Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Number (CHESSN)

Please note: From 2021, CHESSNs will no longer be allocated to new students, and will be gradually decommissioned.

Every student receiving Commonwealth higher education assistance (through a Commonwealth supported place, a HELP loan, or a Commonwealth Scholarship) has a Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Number (CHESSN). This number stays with the student throughout their student life, allowing eligibility for Commonwealth support to be facilitated and monitored.

When you apply for admission to a course through SATAC, as part of the Conditions of Application you give your consent to having your personal details provided electronically to the ATO and the Commonwealth Department of Education who is responsible for allocating CHESSNs. If you are successful in being offered a Commonwealth supported place, the institution concerned will advise you of your CHESSN at the time of enrolment.

Further information

More information is available from Study Assist, Services Australia, or the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

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