What is a VET Student Loan?
The VET Student Loans program is the Commonwealth Government loan scheme for vocational education and training (VET). Under this program, eligible students studying in approved Diplomas or Advanced Diplomas can pay their tuition fees through a student loan.
The loan is repaid via the Australian tax system when the minimum income threshold for repayment has been reached. There is a loan fee of 20% for full fee-paying students but there is no loan fee for eligible students in some NSW Government subsidised training places (Smart and Skilled).
There is a limit to how much you can borrow, called the ‘loan cap’. The loan cap amount is different depending on the course you study. Find out more.
Am I eligible?
To be eligible, you must be enrolled in a VET Student Loans-approved course offered by a VET Student Loans provider, and you must be:
- be an Australian citizen, or
- hold an eligible permanent humanitarian visa and usually reside in Australia, or
- be a New Zealand citizen on a Special Category Visa (SCV subclass 444) who grew up in Australia.
Holders of other permanent visas and temporary visas are NOT eligible for a VET Student Loan.
You must also:
- have a tax file number or be applying for one (the personal details of your TFN with the ATO, must match the personal details you have provided to AIM, for example, your name and date of birth)
- have a Unique Student Identifier (USI)
- meet the academic suitability requirements as stated in the VET Student Loan Booklet
- have not exceeded your lifetime Commonwealth student loan limit.
Is my course eligible?
The Commonwealth Government selects VET student-eligible courses in line with industry needs and employment outcomes and approves providers to offer those courses with a VET Student Loan. A list of approved courses is available at VET Student Loans 2023 Course List and Loan Caps
What is a USI?
A USI is a Unique Student Identifier. The Commonwealth Government requires all students who are studying in a nationally recognised training course to have a USI. If you already have one, please ensure you use the same USI when you enrol for any training. If you don’t have a USI, you can go to https://www.usi.gov.au/ to register before you apply to enrol. Alternatively, you can do this as part of your enrolment.
What is academic suitability?
In addition to meeting VSL eligibility requirements, all students wishing to apply for a VET Student Loan must be assessed for academic suitability to undertake a high-level VET qualification. This is to ensure you have the skills and knowledge to succeed in your course. Academic assessment is in addition to any other entry requirements for our course, or any other additional selection criteria. Refer to the AIM VET Student Loans Student Entry procedure.
To be assessed as academically suitable, you must either:
- provide a copy of your senior secondary certificate of education (Australian Year 12 Certificate) that has been awarded by an Australian authority or agency, or an International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IB) Diploma or
- provide evidence of attainment of an Australian Qualification Framework qualification at Certificate IV level or above (or at a level in a framework that preceded the AQF that is equivalent to level IV or above in the AQF) that was delivered in English, or evidence of an approved Australian Government assessed overseas qualification. If you have an overseas qualification, and English is not your first language, you may be required to provide evidence of your English proficiency such as an IELTS or TOEFL score.
- You may provide a Certificate or transcript from your previous provider or a transcript from the national USI register (for qualifications attained from 2015). If it is an AIM qualification, let us know where and when you studied, or
- undertake the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR)-approved literacy and numeracy assessment and be competent at Exit Level 3 or above in reading and numeracy. We will assist you through the process of undertaking this assessment if required. There is no cost to you.
How will my course fees be charged?
Fees for courses eligible for VET Student Loans are charged by Units of Study (UoS). A Unit of Study is equal to a Unit of Competency (or module in an accredited course).
The tuition fees are distributed across at least 3 sequential Fee Periods throughout your course. A tuition fee is the total fee to be charged to you for the course (including the covered fees plus any gap fee). Each Fee Period contains at least one census day, set at no less than 20% of the Unit of Study. The length of the Fee Period depends on the duration of the course. For example, part-time students may have longer fee periods.
You will be sent a VET Student Loan Fee Notice to your personal email address for each Fee Period. This will be sent 14 days before each census day, indicating your fees, census date, and a range of information relevant to your VSL.
Your accumulated debt is incurred on the day after your census date has passed. AIM will send you a Commonwealth Assistance Notice (CAN) 28 days post your census date study period you are using the loan. The CAN will provide you with information about your debt, including the loan fee if applicable. If you believe your CAN is incorrect, you should contact AIM student support immediately.
For some courses, there may be a gap between the course fee and the loan that the Commonwealth Government will allow for your course (the loan cap), which you need to pay. We will let you know if there is a gap payment when you enquire, and also about other payment options that may be available.
How do I apply for a VET Student Loan?
A VET Student Loan is an agreement between you and the Commonwealth Government. You must apply for a loan through the Commonwealth’s Electronic Commonwealth Assistance Form (eCAF) by the census day.
You must first enrol with your chosen provider and specify that you would like to access a VET Student Loan. If you are accepted into your course, meet all the loan eligibility and academic suitability requirements (including providing any required evidence), and wish to apply for a loan, we will advise the Commonwealth Government. They will send you an email with a passkey to access the eCAF system. You must complete the online application before the first census day of your course, otherwise, you are not eligible for a loan for that Unit of Study and will need to pay. For more information visit the Commonwealth Government website.
Your loan application is separate from your enrolment application with AIM. The Commonwealth Government requires you to submit the eCAF by 11:59pm AEST on or before the first census day for which you wish to access your loan. When you complete the eCAF process, your enrolment can then be finalised.
Are there further requirements to maintain eligibility for my loan?
Yes, please refer to the Commonwealth Government Student Obligations Factsheet and Progression Form Fact sheet to ensure you understand your responsibilities to maintain your loan.
All students accessing a VET Student Loan must complete the Progression Form. You will receive an email from eCAF with the subject line ‘Your VET Student Loan – action required by [due date]’. It is important to complete this document in order for you to continue to have access to your VET Student Loan. You will have 14 days from the receipt date to complete and submit the form.
You will be contacted by the Government every February, June and October, by email and asked to complete a Progression Form to confirm that you are still studying and wish to continue to access a VET Student Loan. You must complete the form to maintain your loan and confirm that you are a genuine student. Failure to comply with the request could result in the cancellation of your loan.
As part of your Progression Form, you will be stepped through to a student survey. The student survey is important information to the Commonwealth and cannot be accessed by the Provider. This is your opportunity to rate the Provider’s service delivery, and quality of the course and to give additional information.
In addition, if you are not progressing through your course, as part of the AIM Student Progression policy, AIM may also cancel your enrolment to ensure that you are not unnecessarily incurring a debt.
It is important that you complete a Progression Form when this occurs and advise that you have either deferred or withdrawn from your course. Your status can be updated at a later stage if/when you are ready to return to your studies.
When a student advises of a deferred, withdrawn or completed status, this leads to the loan closure within the eCAF system, and no further fees can be drawn down from the loan.
When do I repay my debt?
You repay your loan through the tax system when your income is above the minimum repayment threshold. Repayment thresholds are adjusted each year to reflect changes in average weekly earnings. The minimum repayment income threshold for 2023-24 is $51,550.
This means that once your income reaches the minimum threshold you will need to start repaying your loan through the Australian Tax Office. For more information regarding Commonwealth loan repayment thresholds, please visit the StudyAssist website, the VET Student Loan Booklet or the VSL section of the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
Is there a limit to how much I can borrow?
From 1 January 2017, the Commonwealth Government has set a course loan cap for each course. The loan cap is the total amount the student can borrow for the course. Most students will not be affected by the course loan caps. If there is a gap between the course fee and the course loan cap, you will be advised when you enquire.
There is also a lifetime loan limit per student. This is the total amount you can incur in your lifetime under any Commonwealth HELP student loan scheme – whether it is Higher Education FEE-HELP, VET FEE-HELP or a VET Student Loan. It is indexed each year, in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In 2023, the lifetime loan limit is $113,028 for most students.
Students can check their HELP balance and loan obligations by logging into myHELPbalance.
Will taking out a loan impact my credit rating?
A VET Student Loan is a personal debt obligation that can affect your credit rating. It may also have wage and tax repayment implications. You should seek independent financial advice before applying for a VET Student Loan.
I have a student debt already, how do I confirm my total debt?
Log into the myHELPbalance portal to check your available HELP balance and let AIM know of the debt, just in case you are nearing the maximum lifetime loan limit.
Is there an age limit for applying for a VET Student Loan?
There are no age restrictions to apply for a VET Student Loan, although AIM only accepts students 18 years or older.
Can I study part-time or online?
VET Student Loans are available for part-time and online, as well as full-time study.
Am I eligible for a fee reduction for Credit Transfer or RPL for previous learning?
If you have completed previous studies, please discuss this with a teacher before you enrol, as you could be eligible for reduced fees. You should also let us know as soon as possible if you have experience in the area you are studying and think you may qualify for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) which means your study load is reduced and your fees may also be lower. Refer to our Credit Transfer and Assessment policies for more information.
What if I want to withdraw from my study?
You must withdraw in writing by completing the AIM VSL Withdrawal form, available from AIM Student Support at email@example.com. The loan amount you incur will depend on the timing of your withdrawal. There are no penalties if you withdraw on or before the census day. However, once a census day has passed, the loan amount for the unit of study is incurred.
In some special circumstances, you may apply to have your debt reversed by completing a re-credit application. The application must be submitted within 12 months from the withdrawal day of the Unit of Study/Part of a Course. If you did not officially withdraw from that unit/s of study, then your application must be made 12 months after the period in which you undertook that unit/s. Please communicate with AIM Student Support at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
If you choose to withdraw from your course, please ask AIM to send you a Progression Form immediately. Please complete the Progression Form advising of your withdrawal quickly. The moment you advise the Commonwealth of your withdrawal, which is date stamped, is the moment your loan within the eCAF system is closed.
What happens if I fail a Unit of Competency or Unit of Study?
If you fail a unit of competency or part of a course and wish to continue in the course, you will need to repeat the unit or part of the course. The cost of repeating a unit is not part of your original VSL. You may access VSL for the additional amount if you have sufficient course cap and remaining HELP loan limit available. If these conditions are met, we will provide you with updated VSL notices including a VSL Statement of Covered Fees.
If you are unable to access a VSL to pay for the repeat of the unit of competency or part of the course, you will need to pay the fee yourself. We will advise you of the repeat fee.
What is the Census Date?
The first Census Date is the date by which you will need to submit your application for a VET Student Loan. This is the date by which you can also withdraw from a Unit of Study without penalty or incurring any fees, or a FEE-HELP or VET Student Loan debt.
Please keep in mind that if you wish to pay for your census date fees with a VET Student Loan, the system has a 2-day cooling off period from when your loan is established to when the loan is submitted and approved. So, please start the loan process with sufficient time taking into account the cooling off period. Once the loan is approved, which is date stamped, only then can your tuition fees be paid using the VET Student Loan.
What happens to my private information when I apply for a Student Loan?
If you use the Commonwealth government’s student loan schemes (FEE-HELP or VET Student Loan), the information you provide as part of the application process will automatically be copied to Services Australia upon submission.
Where can I find more information about VET Student Loans?
Visit the following websites: