New National Tuition Protection Measures


This alert applies to all subscribers who are approved course providers or higher education providers. It is likely that the relevant obligations imposed by the Bill will be inserted in a new module entitled NATIONAL – Tuition Protection. The Bill will also amend the NATIONAL – Higher Education Funding and NATIONAL – Vocational Education and Training (VET) topics.

Education Legislation Amendment (Tuition Protection and Other Measures) Bill 2019 (Cth)

Please be advised that the Education Legislation Amendment (Tuition Protection and Other Measures) Bill 2019 (Cth) (the Bill) was passed on 5 December 2019. It received Royal Assent on 6 December 2019. Schedule 1 and Part 1 of Schedule 2 will come into force on 1 January 2020. Part 2 of Schedule 2 will come into force immediately after the commencement of Schedule 3 to the Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment (Student Loan Sustainability) Act 2018 (Cth). Sections 1 to 3, Schedule 3 and all other provisions came into operation on the day the Bill received Royal Assent.

Overview

The purpose of the Bill is to protect domestic students utilising government loans to study in Australia if their education provider fails to begin a course on time, makes a course unavailable, or cancels a course entirely.

The Bill primarily impacts the VET Student Loans Act 2016 (Cth) (the VET Act) and the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (Cth) (the HES Act).

The Bill creates Part 5A – Tuition Protection, under the VET Act and Part 5-1A – Tuition Protection, under the HES Act. Both Parts set out new arrangements relating to tuition protection outlined below.

New Definition for ‘Default’ under the VET and HES Acts

Under the VET Act, default means that:

  • the approved course provider has failed to start to provide a course or a part of a course to the student on the day on which the course or part was scheduled to start; or
  • has ceased to provide a course or a part of a course to the student on a day that is after the course or part starts but before it is completed; or
  • if circumstances prescribed by the rules apply in relation to the provider and the student.

In regards to bullet points 1 and 2 above, the student must not have withdrawn from the course before the day the course was scheduled to start or was cancelled and either a VET student loan has to have been approved for the student in relation to the course on or before that day or the student is an eligible student for the course and the student must have a HELP balance of greater than zero on that day.

Under the HES Act, default means that:

  • a higher education provider has failed to start to provide a unit of study to the student on the day on which the unit was scheduled to start; or
  • has ceased to provide a unit of study to the student on a day after the unit starts but before it is completed; or
  • if circumstances prescribed by the Higher Education Provider Guidelines apply in relation to the provider and the student.

In regards to bullet points 1 and 2 above, the student must not have withdrawn before the day the course was scheduled to start or was cancelled, and the student was entitled or would have been entitled to FEE-HELP assistance or HECS-HELP assistance for the unit of study.

Should either the approved course or higher education provider fails to abide by the above provision, they may face a punishment of 60 penalty units (currently $12,600).

Introduction of Notification Obligations

Approved course and higher education providers will be required to notify either the VSL or HELP Tuition Protection Director and any students within 24 hours of a default occurring and provide written notice within 3 business days to the VSL or HELP Tuition Protection Director.

If requested in writing by the VSL or HELP Tuition Protection Director, the approved course provider or higher education provider is required to give to the relevant Director the following for a student in relation to whom the provider has defaulted:

  • Under the VET Act, a copy of a:
    • statement of attainment or other Australian Qualifications Framework certification documentation issued by the course provider or an authorised issuing organisation for the parts of the course that the student has completed; and
    • an authenticated VET transcript prepared by the Registrar for the parts of the course that the student has completed.
  • Under the HES Act:
    • a copy of a student’s record of results for the units of study that the student has completed.
  • Under both:
    • Any information that the VSL or HELP Tuition Protection Director requests to assist in making a suitable decision regarding selecting an appropriate replacement course.

Failure to provide can result in a punishment of 60 penalty units (currently $12,600).

Introduction of Replacement Course Obligations

If the VSL or HELP Tuition Protection Director fails to find that there is an acceptable placement course, the fee for the relevant course or unit must be re-credited to the student or the Commonwealth.

If, however, it is determined that there is an acceptable replacement course, and the student accepts it, the approved course or higher education provider providing the replacement course, must then give written notice of the acceptance to the VSL or HELP Tuition Protection Director within 14 days of the acceptance.

An approved course provider under the VET Act must also ensure that:

  • the student is granted course credits for parts of the original course successfully completed by the student;
  • if tuition fees have been paid for the affected part of the original course, that the student is not charged tuition fees for the replacement component of the replacement course; and
  • is enrolled in the replacement course as soon as practicable.

Additionally, a higher education provider under the HSE Act must keep up to date records in relation to the student – such as the student’s full name. Failure to do so could see a provider face a potential penalty of up to 60 penalty points.

Levy Payments

Approved course and higher education providers will be required to pay a tuition protection levy to fund tuition assurance arrangements under both the VET and HES Acts.


Please click here to access the full Bill.

Contact

For further information please contact the Law Compliance team:

Phone: 1300 862 667

Email: info@lawcompliance.com.au