The Morrison Government is taking action to protect students and taxpayers from the accumulation of large HELP debts that do not provide benefits to the student and are unlikely to be repaid.
The Job-ready Graduates legislation contains measures to strengthen and extend student protection and provider integrity by:
- Requiring that universities ensure that all students are academically suitable for their course of enrolment, and that students are engaged with the course and maintaining a reasonable completion rate.
- Ensuring that a student’s HECS-HELP debts can be forgiven if their progress has been affected by special circumstances.
- Students with low completion or progression rates will no longer be able to access a Commonwealth supported place, HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP. A low completion rate would be a student who has failed more than 50 per cent of eight or more units in a Bachelor course. If a student can demonstrate circumstances have adversely affected their academic performance – for example, illness or bereavement – their education provider can allow for consideration of these impacts. If a student transfers to another course the low completion rate will not be carried with them.
Minister for Education Dan Tehan said the changes would ensure the sector was focused on assessing whether a student was academically suited to their course on an ongoing basis, not just at the point of enrolment.
"These measures will ensure students can’t take on a study load they won’t complete, leaving them without a qualification but a large debt," Mr Tehan said.
"The lack of transparency of a student’s enrolment has allowed some non-genuine students to enrol and re-enrol at multiple providers at the same time.
"We have found cases where students with the highest levels of debt have been continuously enrolled at multiple providers at the same time, resulting in debts ranging from $220,000 up to $660,000 combined with very low pass rates – on average these students have passed just one in every five subjects they have attempted.
"We passed legislation in 2018 that placed a limit on HELP borrowing, and the Job-ready Graduates legislation will help address the management of student progress.
"The Job-ready Graduates package will also increase the number of university places for Australian students and strengthen the focus on teaching students the skills they need to succeed in the jobs of the future.
"Our reforms will make it cheaper for students to study qualifications and get good jobs in areas like teaching, health, IT, science, engineering, and agriculture."