Finances and Centrelink FAQ
If you’re wondering how you’ll pay for your studies, and where Centrelink fits into the picture, take a look at our Finances and Centrelink FAQ.
If you’re not an Australian citizen, permanent resident of Australia, or New Zealand citizen, your subject fees will be set at the international student rate. It’s slightly higher than the domestic student rate—an additional $250 for each undergraduate or postgraduate subject, that can vary depending on the university teaching the subject.
See subject pages for an indication of fees. Make sure you select 🌐 ‘International student’ to see the right estimate.
You must be:
- An Australian citizen residing in Australia for all or part of your studies or
- A New Zealand citizen who will be residing in Australia for the duration of your study or
- The holder of a permanent visa who will be residing in Australia for the duration of your studies and
- Able to meet the admission criteria for the degree you're applying for.
Your residential address is the physical location where you live, permanently or temporarily, during your studies. You cannot use a post office box (PO box) as your residential address.
Your mailing address is where you receive your hard copy correspondence from us and your uni. This can be the same address as your residential address or a PO box.
The Australian government provides the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) to help you with the costs of your fees. FEE-HELP and HECS-HELP are two of the loans available within the program.
Student loans, through the Australian Government’s Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) are not unlimited.
From 1 January 2020, the HELP loan limit includes FEE-HELP, HECS-HELP, and other HELP loans like the VET Student Loan and VET FEE-HELP—they’re collectively known as the Combined HELP Loan Limit and Lifetime Balance. Basically, it’s a cap on what you can borrow from the Australian Government to cover the costs of your tuition fees.
To find out more, including limits in the past and current years, visit Study Assist.
The good news is, if you reach your HELP limit, you can top-up by making repayments. Once you’ve reduced your debt, you’ll be able to re-borrow when you’re ready to continue your studies.
Check the ATO for information on repayments.
Remember, OUA also accepts upfront payment if you’re a postgraduate student or you’re studying single subjects. So if you’ve reached your loan limit, you might choose to pay your fees straight away by credit card.
No. The HELP voluntary repayment bonus ended on 1 January 2017. For more information visit Study Assist.
You’ll need to give us your tax file number (TFN), or send us a copy of your Certificate of Application for a TFN before the census date if you are:
- Using FEE-HELP or,
- Using HECS-HELP and you’ve chosen not to pay your full student contribution amount up front.
If you don’t have a TFN, you’ll need to complete a tax file number application at www.ato.gov.au. Apply early to ensure you have your TFN on or before the census date. A TFN is usually provided within 28 days of your application.
In some case you may have both debts. Visit Study Assist for more information.
FEE-HELP is a loan from the Australian Government that assists eligible students to pay their subject fees. FEE-HELP can cover all or part of your subject fees.
If you’re eligible for FEE-HELP, the Government will pay the amount of your loan directly to Open Universities Australia. You’ll start to repay your loan through the tax system when your income is above the minimum threshold for compulsory repayment.
You can make an upfront payment of a portion of your fees, and choose to defer 25 percent, 50 per cent or 75 per cent of your fees using FEE-HELP.
Visit Study Assist for more information.
If you’re an Australian citizen eligible for FEE-HELP, you can apply online during enrolment. Other eligible students can request a paper FEE-HELP form by contacting a student advisor.
HECS-HELP is a loan from the Australian Government, available to eligible students enrolled in a Commonwealth supported place. This loan allows you to defer your subject fees and then pay the loan back through the tax system once you reach the income threshold.
To be eligible for HECS-HELP, you must:
- Be enrolled in a subject as a Commonwealth supported place student and
- Be an Australian citizen residing in Australia for all or part of your studies or
- Be the holder of a permanent humanitarian visa, residing in Australia for the duration of your study or
- Be an eligible New Zealand citizen, residing in Australia for the duration of your study
Centrelink may query why your subjects are with a different university if they change from one study term to the next. When you study online through OUA, you’ll notice that some subjects come from unis other than the one awarding your degree—we call this flexible enrolment.
When you’re admitted into a degree, you’ll receive an email confirming your enrolment. You can use this email for employment and Centrelink purposes. We’re not able to supply verification documentation for students enrolled in single subjects only.
The study load of each subject is measured as equivalent full-time study load (EFTSL), a measure which is recognised by Centrelink.
To be considered full-time, you need to be enrolled in subjects which have a combined EFTSL of at least 0.250. This is normally two subjects, requiring 20–24 hours of study per week.
You can find each subject’s EFTSL on its subject page. Not all subjects have a standard EFTSL of 0.125, so it's best to check the EFTSL before enrolling in the subject.
Full-time study examples (EFTSL of 0.250 or more)
- You’re doing 2 subjects in Study Period 1, each with an EFTSL of 0.125, one of which has an exam in the exam period. You're also studying 2 subjects in Study Period 2, each with an EFTSL of 0.125. As the exam period overlaps the next study period, your EFTSL during the exam period is reported as 0.375 which meets the full-time study requirement.
- You’re doing 2 subjects in Study Period 1, each with EFTSL of 0.125, one of which has an exam in the exam period and 1 subject in Study Period 2 with an EFTSL of 0.125. As the exam period overlaps the next study period, your EFTSL during the exam period is reported as 0.250, which meets the fulltime study requirement.
- You’re doing 2 subjects in Semester 1, each with EFTSL of 0.125, and 2 subjects in Semester 2 each with EFTSL of 0.125. Your load in Semester 1 is reported as 0.250, in the gap between Semester 1 and 2 it is reported as 0, and in Semester 2 it is reported as 0.250. You would receive the allowance in each of the Semesters, but not in the break between.
- You’re doing 2 subjects in each of the 4 study periods and the subjects all have an EFTSL of 0.125. As study periods are back to back, your load will be reported as 0.250 every week of the year.
- You’re doing 2 subjects in Study Period 1, each with an EFTSL of 0.125, and 2 subjects in Study Period 3 each with an EFTSL of 0.125. Your load in Study Period 1 is reported as 0.250 for each week of the study period. During Study Period 2 your load is reported as 0, and in Study Period 3 it is reported as 0.250.
Part time example (EFTSL less than 0.250)
- You ‘re doing 1 subject in Study Period 1 with an EFTSL of 0.125 and you are not studying in the following study period. Your subject also has an exam. During the study period and the exam period, your EFTSL is reported as 0.125, which does not meet the full-time study requirement.
When applying to Centrelink, you'll need to provide an enrolment statement. The statement includes your e-reference number. You can download a copy from your Student Hub.
If you’re studying a postgraduate degree through OUA, you'll need to check with the Department of Human Services if it’s an approved course for government allowances.
EDC421 has both a teaching period and a work placement period. This subject is equivalent to full-time study. On our website, the subject shows an EFTSL of 0.5. This represents the 0.25 load during the 13-week teaching period, and the 0.25 load during the work placement period.
- Teaching period - During the teaching period, we report your study load as full-time to Centrelink.
- Work placement period - As this is organised via Curtin University, we don’t have a record of when it’s happening, so we don't automatically report study load to Centrelink. To receive an allowance during the work placement period, you'll need to contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you’re claiming Centrelink benefits. Then, we’ll add a work placement record for EDC421 to your account in our system, so we can report the study load to Centrelink during this period.
Commonwealth Assistance Notice (CAN)
A CAN is a statement of your enrolment and a record of your use of Commonwealth assistance (your FEE-HELP loan) for a study term. Your CAN is a statement—it's not an invoice or a request for payment—and is for information purposes only.
Under Commonwealth legislation, higher education providers must issue a CAN to all Commonwealth assisted students within 28 days of the census date of the study term.
An eCAN is an electronic Commonwealth Assistance Notice (eCAN). It's the online version of a paper CAN. All students who are accessing the government loan scheme FEE-HELP, will have an eCAN generated for each census date which they have an enrolment.
Your CAN/eCAN includes:
- Your Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Number (CHESSN), which is required for all students accessing Commonwealth assistance for higher education.
- Information about your enrolment and the HELP debt you've incurred for the study term.
Your CHESSN is the unique, personal identification number that was allocated to you when you started your higher education studies.
You need your CHESSN to login to myHELPbalance so you can find out your HELP loan balance.
To find your CHESSN, check your Electronic Commonwealth Assistance Notice (eCAN) in your Student Hub.
Your eCAN will be ready within 28 days of the study term you're enrolled in. All students who are Commonwealth supported and/or request FEE-HELP can request their eCAN by contacting us.
If you've enrolled in advance using FEE-HELP in later study terms, you'll receive eCANs detailing any additional liability relating to those study terms within 28 days of the relevant census date. Your eCAN will be updated 28 days after the census date.
Contact us if you believe your eCAN contains errors—you can lodge a request for issuing a new eCAN.