The Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Luke Hartsuyker, today introduced legislation that will strengthen the protections for students in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector and push unscrupulous training providers out of the market.
Mr Hartsuyker said the changes introduced by the former Labor Government had undermined public confidence in the VET sector and created a situation whereby unscrupulous VET FEE-HELP providers have flourished at the expense of students and taxpayers.
“Labor likes to talk about their good intentions when introducing the VET FEE-HELP scheme but it is because of their failure to put in place proper rules and processes that many vulnerable Australians have been duped into training courses they didn’t want and debt they didn’t need or know about” Mr Hartsuyker said.
“The Government has acted swiftly this year to tighten the rules around VET provider marketing, the use of agents and the invoicing of student fees to better protect students and stamp out the unethical behaviour by that small cohort of VET FEE-HELP providers doing the wrong thing.
“No longer can unscrupulous providers sweet-talk people into signing on to their courses with the offer of a free laptop or iPhone.
“No longer can providers hit students with extortionate withdrawal fees which meant that students felt they had no choice but to continue in a course.
“No longer can providers and their agents pass-off VET FEE HELP supported training as ‘free’ or ‘government-funded’, nor mislead students in any way into believing that VET FEE-HELP is not a loan that is expected to be paid back to the Government”.
The Higher Education Amendment (VET FEE-HELP Reform) Bill 2015 builds on these changes to date and seeks to prevent inappropriate enrolments and debts by:
- Introducing a two day cooling off period between enrolment and the application for a VET FEE-HELP loan so that course enrolment is no longer confused with the loan application process;
- Introducing minimum pre-requisites such as literacy and numeracy to ensure students can complete the higher level VET courses (diploma level and above) for which VET FEE-HELP is available; and
- Requiring a parent’s or guardian’s signature before a student under 18 years can request a VET FEE-HELP loan to protect younger students.
The Bill will also further protect students and taxpayers by:
- Making it easier for a student to have their debt cancelled where they have been signed up for a loan inappropriately and for the Government to recoup the cost from providers;
- Introducing minimum registration and trading history requirements to ensure new VET FEE-HELP provider applicants have a proven history of delivering quality training;
- Introducing infringement notices and financial penalties for breaches of the VET FEE-HELP Guidelines; and
- Technical amendments to strengthen the Department’s administration of the scheme and its partnerships with Australian Skills and Quality Authority to monitor and enforce compliance.
“The Australian Government is committed to ensuring we continue to have a strong VET sector that helps students to develop the skills they need for the jobs of today and to adapt to the work of the future,” Mr Hartsuyker said.