Catch Up | More sustainable higher education

Brighter Future: Under the changes, a student loan will still be one of the cheapest loans Australians can access.
Brighter Future: Under the changes, a student loan will still be one of the cheapest loans Australians can access.

The Coalition Government’s plan for a more sustainable higher education student loans scheme has passed the Parliament. This means future generations will have access to study opportunities at Australia’s world-class institutions, which is good news for the student community right across the Parkes electorate.

Under the changes, a student loan will still be one of the cheapest loans Australians can access.

A record $17 billion in funding is being delivered for higher education this year. The system is being set up to ensure Australian students can continue to take advantage of one of the most generous student loan schemes in the world.

The Government is also tackling record levels of student debt, which currently stands at $54 billion. Left unchecked these costs would spiral out of control.

With the average graduate starting salary around $60,000, Australian taxpayers rightly expect students to start repaying their loans proportionate to their incomes. This plan means those repayments start at just $8 or $9 a week.

Borrowers who make repayments towards their HELP debt are being rewarded. Students will have the flexibility to return to study in order to retrain, change careers, or further specialise in their current profession.

Key changes mean

  • From July 1, 2019, there will be a new minimum repayment income threshold of $45,881 starting at one per cent for the repayment of HELP loans as well as other progressive repayment thresholds.
  • Graduates earning a higher income will also repay their loans faster, with a new 10 per cent repayment rate starting at $134,573.
  • From January 1, 2019, the FEE-HELP loan limit for fee-paying students studying medicine, dentistry and veterinary science courses will increase to $150,000. For all other fee-paying students the loan limit will be $104,440.
  • From January 1, 2020, there will be a loan limit on how much students can borrow under HELP.

All time high for Medicare free services

A record amount of Australians are visiting their doctor without having to pay a cent with the latest Medicare data confirming almost nine out of every ten services were fully bulk-billed.

The data for the 2017-18 financial year shows an increase of more than 5.7 million free services compared to last year, boosting the national bulk-billing rate to 86.1 per cent for the first time in Medicare’s history.

Over 133 million free GP services were delivered last year. These results can only be achieved thanks to our world class GPs and doctors.

And although more Australians are benefiting from these record figures we must continue to drive down the cost of private health insurance, following the lowest premium change in 17 years.

The Commonwealth’s Chief Medical Officer is working with the medical profession to address the large and sometimes unanticipated out-of-pocket medical fees some patients face.

The Government will continue to provide new Medicare support, creating better outcomes for patients.

VET Student Loan applications open

High-quality training providers that wish to be involved in the Australian Government’s VET Student Loans (VSL) program are invited to apply for the third formal application round, open now.

The VSL program is helping to restore the integrity of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector.

VSL is an essential component in the Government’s work to provide Australians with real skills for real careers. The strengthened framework of VSL provides greater protection and value for money to both students and taxpayers.

This includes loan caps on courses, stronger course eligibility criteria that aligns with industry needs, mandatory student engagement measures and a stronger focus on students successfully completing courses.

Under VSL, loans are offered to eligible students for qualifications at a diploma level and above, with a cap on the amount of the loan.

This follows the latest figures showing completion rates are significantly higher under VSL than the failed VET FEE-HELP scheme, which is encouraging to see.

Information about how to apply to become a VET Student Loans provider, including details on the information session, can be found at https://www.education.gov.au/vet-student-loans/vet-student-loans-applicants. Applications close on  October 22.