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Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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Updated Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) debt statistics—2018–19

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has released new data on the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP, formerly HECS) debts. This FlagPost summarises the ATO HELP data. Previous versions were published for the 2017–18 financial year release, and the 2016–17 financial year release.   All figures are at 30 June for the relevant financial year. Figures have not been adjusted for inflation.  Total amount of outstanding HELP debt This release updates the total amount of outstanding HELP debt to nearly $67.0 billion in 2018–19, up from $62.0 billion in 2017–18. Figure 1: Total amount of outstanding HELP debt 2009–10 to 2018–19 financial years ($... Read more...

Updated Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) debt statistics—2017–18

The Department of Education and Training (DET) has released Higher Education Loan Program (HELP, formerly HECS) data, updating last year’s release from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). The DET HELP data is based on the ATO's annual HELP data report for 2017–18 (available from Data.gov.au), and previous ATO annual HELP data reports. Further historical data is available in the ATO release. All figures are at 30 June for the relevant financial year. Figures have not been adjusted for inflation.  Total amount of outstanding HELP debt This release updates the total amount of outstanding HELP debt to $62.0 billion, up from $54.0 billion in 2016–17. Figure 1: Tot... Read more...

Will the new Future Drought Fund leave the Education Investment Fund high and dry?

On 26 October, the Coalition Government announced it would create a new Future Drought Fund, with initial investment to come from transferring the $3.9 billion uncommitted balance of the Building Australia Fund, one of the Nation-building Funds originally created by the Gillard Labor Government. The announcement has raised the question of the status of the other remaining Nation-building Fund, the Education Investment Fund (EIF).  This FlagPost provides an overview of the EIF to assist in understanding its current status. It updates some of the information provided in the Medicare Levy Amendment (National Disability Insurance Scheme Funding) Bill 2017 [and] related Bills Bills Digest. ... Read more...

Tertiary education providers—more regulation for some and less regulation for others

In the last sitting week of Parliament for the year, the Government changed regulatory requirements for tertiary education providers with the passage of the Education Services for Overseas Students (Streamlining Regulation) Bill 2015, and the Higher Education Support Amendment (VET FEE-HELP Reform) Bill 2015. It is timely to take stock of Australia’s fragmented approach to the regulation of the tertiary education sector. Read more...

Unknown costs a challenge for the class of 2014

As universities around the country hold Open Days, and closing dates for applications for 2015 entry loom, spare a thought for this year’s crop of Year 12 students. Not only do they have the usual challenges of deciding what course they want to do, and considering what Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) they might get, they also have no idea how much a university course might cost them.  Read more...

You can still get a free university education—you just have to be prepared to die for it

There has been considerable discussion about the increasing Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) debt that students are likely to accrue as a result of changes proposed in the recent Budget. One group of students will not feel the impact of these increased debt levels—those who die before they repay the debt. There are reports that the Government is considering changing this, although it has been denied by the Prime Minister. Read more...

Has the United Kingdom sold their student debt?

On a recent Q&A program Education Minister Christopher Pyne, in response to a question about selling HECS debt, stated: ‘Britain have sold their HECS debt as an asset and we should investigate whether that is a sensible move for us to do so.’ This Flag Post looks at the UK experience of selling some of their student loan; of a 2007 proposal to sell more that did not proceed and of recent proposals to again sell part of their student debt asset.Pre 1998 debtThe UK Labour Government introduced an income contingent student loan scheme similar to Australia’s HECS HELP programme in 1998. The student loan scheme that had existed since 1990 was a loan with fixed rate repayments over five years ... Read more...

For sale: Refurbished National Research Priorities

Back in 2002, the Howard Government announced four National Research Priorities (NRPs) to focus investment on research in key areas that could deliver significant economic, social and environmental benefits to Australia. The Australian Government has just unveiled 15 new Strategic Research Priorities; the result of a long-awaited and thoughtful refurbishment. The original National Research Priorities were: An Environmentally Sustainable Australia Promoting and Maintaining Good Health Frontier Technologies for Building and Transforming Australian Industries Safeguarding Australia Each of the NRPs was expanded into a number of priority goals that covered research in a range of disciplines.  Th... Read more...

Higher education savings - students pick up the bill

The government’s Statement on Higher Education announces savings measures in three areas. Reaction from, and on behalf of, the higher education sector has been negative. The peak body representing universities, Universities Australia, has condemned the cuts.Yet it is not the universities that will bear the brunt of the savings but their students.Of the expected $2.33 billion in savings:$230 million is coming from removal of HECS discounts and repayment bonuses$900 million is coming from the two-year, 2 per cent efficiency dividend being applied to university funding, and$1,200 million is coming from conversion of the Student Start-up Scholarship from a benefit to a loan.Only one of these mea... Read more...

And then there were none: HECS discounts

On 13 April 2013 the Australian government released a Statement on Higher Education. One of the three savings measures announced is ‘removal of the 10 per cent discount on paying university fees upfront and the 5 per cent bonus received for voluntary repayment of HELP debts’.  This move is the end of the line for two incentives that have been whittled away over the past ten years. Abolishing them is expected to save $230 million.Higher Education Loan Program (HELP)The Higher Education Contribution scheme (HECS) was first introduced in 1989. Its purpose was to provide income contingent loans to Commonwealth supported students.In 2005 there was a major overhaul of the scheme. Additional loans ... Read more...

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