What’s in the 2024 budget for online students?

The Federal Government made a lot of education announcements in its 2024 budget last week, including a welcome change to HELP indexation. So what are the main things you need to know about as an online student? Here’s a quick and easy recap. 

A piggy bank wearing a graduation cap set beside books and pencils

Your HELP debt will be indexed at a lower rate

To the relief of students and graduates alike, the government has revealed it will be changing how HELP indexation is calculated.

How it’s calculated now

Eleven months after you graduate from your course, your HELP debt (a HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP loan) starts being ‘indexed’ every June. This means it goes up slightly—kind of like being charged interest—to make sure the amount you owe keeps up with the cost of living. 

HELP has always been indexed according to whatever the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is. But last year, the CPI went up to a historic high of 7.1%, and it’s set to remain high at 4.7% this year. It means that HELP debts have suddenly been going up faster than people’s wages. 

How it will be calculated from this year onwards

To keep your HELP debt at a reasonable level, the government has decided that HELP will now be indexed on whatever is lowest between the CPI or the Wage Price Index (WPI). 

This June, your student loan debt won’t go up as much as it did in 2023. This new policy will also be backdated, reversing that high indexation amount you were charged last year. 

What’s the TL;DR?

  • If you’re a graduate with an existing HELP debt, it will be indexed as normal on 1 June.
  • But once this legislation passes, you’ll receive a credit for the last two years of indexation payments. This won’t go into your pocket, but it will reduce the amount you owe on your loan.
  • To give you an example: say your HELP debt was $28,000 when it was indexed in 2023. You’ll get a credit of about $1,255. (You can find out how much you’ll get back by using this HELP indexation credit estimator)
  • You don’t need to do anything to get this credit. The Australian Tax Office will work it out for you.
  • If you’re a current student, this won’t impact you yet. But it means that once you finish studying, your future HELP debt will be indexed at a lower rate. 

Teaching, nursing and social work students will be paid for compulsory placements

In other welcome news, the government will now pay student teachers, nurses and social workers while they complete the work placements that are required as part of their degrees. 

This will make it easier to train for these highly needed roles in Australia, without worrying about daily living costs.  

If this describes you, then you’ll be eligible for a $319.50 a week Commonwealth prac payment for the duration of your future placements. This will come into effect after 1 July 2025.  

What’s the TL;DR? 

  • Online students who need to complete compulsory work placements in these three study areas will be eligible to apply for placement payments from next year.
  • Nursing students will be covered for up to 20 weeks of placement, teaching students will be covered for up to 16 weeks, and social work students will be covered for up to 26 weeks.
  • You’ll be able to spend this payment on whatever you like, including living expenses, uniforms, petrol and groceries. 

There will be more free courses that help you prepare for university

The last big announcement is that from 1 January 2025, the government will be creating more fully funded places in 'Fee-free uni ready courses'. 

What does that mean? If you want to increase your confidence before applying for a uni course, or you’d like support easing out of high school and into higher ed life, then you could enrol in a preparatory course for free. 

These courses teach you the study skills you need to succeed at uni, like academic writing and learning strategies, and they’re known for giving students a leg-up in their first year of undergrad. They’re available both online and on-campus with universities across Australia. 

What’s the TL;DR? 

  • The full details are yet to come, but we’ll keep you up to date on who’s eligible for these places. We’ll also let you know if foundational courses will be available fee free through Open Universities Australia. 

 

Would you like help understanding how these changes could affect your future study plans? Book a free call with one of our student advisors—they’re always available to chat!   

 

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