Version 1.2 | 11/09/2019
This information applies to students with a VET Student Loan (VSL).
A students’ FEE HELP balance may be re-credited in certain circumstances under the VET Student Loans Act 2016 (‘the Act’) Part 6).
Note: The term ‘VETSL debt’ has replaced the term ‘FEE HELP debt’ as of 01/09/2019.
- You may apply to us for your FEE HELP balance to be re-credited under section 68 of the Act because of special circumstances.
- You may apply to the Secretary for your FEE HELP balance to be re-credited under section 71 of the Act because:
- we, or a person acting on our behalf, engaged in unacceptable conduct in relation to your application for the VET student loan, or
- we failed to comply with the Act or an instrument under the Act and the failure has adversely affected you.
- Special circumstances are circumstances that are beyond your control; do not make their full impact on you until on or after the census day for a course, or the part of a course; and make it impracticable for you to complete the requirements for the course, or the part of the course, during your enrolment in the course, or the part of the course.
- Applications for re-crediting under section 68 of the Act must be made within 12 months after the census day for the course, or the part of the course, concerned, or within that period as extended by us.
- Applications for re-crediting under section 71 of the Act must be made within 5 years after the census day for the course, or the part of the course, concerned or within that period as extended by the the Secretary of the Department of Education and Training.
- There is no charge for reconsideration or review of decisions, other than review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
- The Secretary of the Department of Education and Training may re-credit a student’s FEE-HELP balance in relation to special circumstances if we are unable to act or are being wound up or we have been dissolved; or we have failed to act and the Secretary is satisfied that the failure is unreasonable.
Re-crediting by us for special circumstances
Section 68 of the Act provides for re-crediting of a student’s FEE-HELP balance by a provider on behalf of the Secretary in special circumstances. Where we are satisfied that special circumstances apply, we must re-credit your FEE-HELP balance with an amount equal to the VET student loan that has been used to pay the tuition fees for the course or part of the course. We must, on the Secretary’s behalf, re-credit a student’s FEE-HELP balance if:
- you apply to us in writing for the re-credit, and
- the application is made within 12 months after the census day for the course, or the part of the course; and
- we are satisfied that ‘special circumstances’ prevented, or will prevent, you from completing the requirements of the course or the part of the course.
Where we allow you to defer completion of your studies regarding a course, or part of a course, the 12-month application period applies from the end of the extended period for the course.
We have the discretion to refund any other payments by you in respect of the course in line with our policies. We may elect to use the ‘special circumstances test’ in deciding whether to refund any upfront payment.
Meaning of ‘special circumstances’
Circumstances are special circumstances under the Act, if you can demonstrate to us that the circumstances were:
- beyond your control; and
- did not make their full impact on you until on, or after, the census day for the course, or the part of the course, and
- made it impracticable for you to complete the requirements for the course, or part of the course, during your enrolment.
Examples of circumstances that may be considered beyond a person’s control might include a motor vehicle accident or the worsening of a serious illness.
Special circumstances that do not make full impact until on or after a census date
Circumstances generally do not make their full impact on you until on or after the census day for the VET unit of study if your circumstances occurred:
- before the census day, but worsen after that day
- before the census day, but the full effect or magnitude did not become apparent until after that day; or
- on or after the census day.
Special circumstances arising from pre-existing conditions
A circumstance that first occurred before a census day may satisfy the special circumstances requirement where it worsens after that day or the full effect or magnitude does not become apparent until after that day. For example, a person may have an illness or other underlying, pre‐existing condition or incapacity prior to the census day for a course (‘condition/s’), but that condition may worsen, or the person may suffer from an aggravation, deterioration or serious episode, after the census date.
Alternatively, the full implications of a person’s condition may not have been apparent until after the census day. This may be because recovery does not go to plan, or the degree of disability or incapacity for study is not fully realised until after the census day.
We will consider whether your circumstances changed on or after the census day and when the full effect or magnitude of the circumstances became apparent, taking into account any additional circumstances, including continuation of a pre‐existing condition that may have affected you on or after the census day.
It is your responsibility to inform us in writing of any known pre-existing or underlying condition/s a reasonable person would consider may impact upon your study to any degree:
- during the course application and entry selection processes;
- at any time after you become enrolled and before you commence study; and/or
- if you have already commenced study, as soon as practicable at the time you become aware of the condition/s; or become aware of a significant change in the condition/s.
‘Special circumstances’ will not apply where you have not communicated with us in writing in a timely manner as soon as practicable about your condition/s.
Circumstances that made it impracticable to complete a course
The term ‘impracticable’ is defined as ‘not practicable, that which cannot be put into practice with the available means’. Circumstances that make it impracticable for you to complete the requirements for your course may include (among other things) medical circumstances and family or personal circumstances.
In considering whether circumstances are ‘special circumstances’ because they make it impracticable for you to complete the requirements of the course, or part of the course, during your enrolment, we will consider whether you could (or could have at the time):
- do enough private study, or attend training sessions and other activities, or engage online, to meet course requirements;
- complete any required assessable work, or demonstrate competencies required;
- complete any other requirements arising from your inability to do the above; and/or
- defer study to a later date in order to manage your circumstances, in compliance with our policy on deferral of study.
We will also consider whether you are / have taken reasonable steps to manage your circumstances through your access of relevant:
- student welfare services and learning support services we provide; and/or
- external medical, psychological, counselling and/or support services we recommend you consult, or it would have been reasonable for you to consult in the circumstances.
If you did not access relevant internal and/or external services (as above) and/or did not implement the advice or treatment provided by those services in a reasonable and timely manner to assist in the management of your circumstances, your circumstances will not satisfy the ‘special circumstances’ test in this policy.
Requirements for making decisions
Any medical condition/s / circumstances diagnosable by a health professional must be formally diagnosed by relevant and qualified health professional/s and made in writing, together with sufficient detail on your condition/s including all relevant dates, by those health professional/s. It is the responsibility of the student to obtain the diagnosis and documentation from the health professional/s and to provide this to us in a timely manner at the time at which the condition/s / circumstances first became known. All costs for medical diagnosis, treatment and reports are the responsibility of the student. We reserve the right to verify the evidence provided and to seek further verifiable evidence as we see fit. Any health condition/s not diagnosed and communicated to us in this way will not satisfy the ‘special circumstances’ test in this policy.
Any other conditions and circumstances, other than health condition/s, must be clearly substantiated by verifiable evidence provided by at least one relevant and independent third party. It is the responsibility of the student to obtain this evidence and to provide this to us in writing in a timely manner at the time at which the conditions / circumstances first became known. We reserve the right to verify the evidence provided and to seek further verifiable evidence as we see fit. We will not accept evidence from a third party where we consider the third party has an actual, potential and/or perceived conflict of interest with the student. All costs for obtaining and providing evidence are the responsibility of the student. Any conditions / circumstances not verified and communicated to us in this way will not satisfy the ‘special circumstances’ test in this policy.
Re-crediting by the provider where course not provided to completion
We will, on the Secretary’s behalf, re-credit your FEE-HELP balance if:
- you have not completed the requirements for the course, or the part of the course, because we ceased to provide the course, or the part of the course after it started but before it was completed, and
- it is impractical for you, under the approved tuition assurance arrangement for the course, to finish the course or an equivalent course [Act s 69(1)].
The amount re-credited must be equal to the amounts of the VET Student Loans that have been used to pay tuition fees for you for the course, or the part of the course [Act s 69(2)].
If we re-credit the your FEE-HELP balance, we will notify you and the tuition assurance scheme operator for the course, as soon as practicable [Act s 69(3)].
The application must be in writing and include:
- the grounds on which the applicant’s FEE-HELP balance is to be re-credited;
- details of the course to which the application relates;
- details of the study period/s to which the application relates;
- the loan amount that is to be re-credited;
- the applicant’s student identifier (if any);
- the date the application has been signed and witnessed; and
- any documents supporting the application.
The application must be signed and dated by the student and witnessed by a Justice of the Peace or Commissioner for Declarations.
Applications are to be sent directly to us.
We will not accept applications that are:
- not made in compliance with this policy and procedure;
- lacking reasonable detail;
- lacking substance;
- submitted outside the allowable time period;
- witnessed and dated more than seven (7) business days prior to the date upon which we receive it; and/or
- backdated in any way.
We will acknowledge receipt of your application in writing.
We will consider your application and will notify you of our decision and the reasons for making the decision in writing within 28 days of receiving your application, or within such longer time as we may allow.
Decisions are reviewable
Decisions regarding re-crediting a person’s FEE-HELP balance are reviewable. The limit for applying for a review of a decision is 28 days after the day on which you were notified of the decision, or within such longer time as we may allow.
Re-crediting by Secretary
The Secretary may act in place of a provider and re-credit a student’s FEE-HELP balance under section 68 of the Act, for special circumstances, or under section 69 of the Act, where a course has not been provided to completion. The Secretary may exercise this discretion where the course provider is unable to do so or is being wound up or has been dissolved or where the course provider has unreasonably failed to act [Act s 70].
In addition, the Secretary may re-credit a person’s FEE-HELP balance where the person has been subject to ‘unacceptable conduct’ within the meaning of Division 2 of the Rules [Act s 71(1)].
The Secretary may also re-credit a student’s FEE-HELP balance if the Secretary is satisfied of one or more of the following:
- the student is not an eligible student
- the student is not a genuine student
- the student does not have a tax file number
- the student does not have a student identifier (that is a USI within the meaning of the Student Identifiers Act 2014) [Act s 71(3)].
Further the Secretary may re-credit a student’s FEE-HELP balance where:
- the provider has failed to comply with the Act (including the Rules, other instruments made under the Act and the HESA and any instrument made under the HESA to the extent they relate to the Act), and
- the failure has adversely affected the student [Act s 71(4)].
You may apply to the Secretary of the department for a re-credit of their FEE-HELP balance you believe we have engaged in unacceptable conduct in relation to an application for a VET student loan under sections 71 and 72 of the Act because:
- we, or a person acting on our behalf, engaged in unacceptable conduct in relation to the student’s application for the VET student loan, or
- we failed to comply with the Act or an instrument under the Act and the failure has adversely affected you [Rules paragraph 89(2)(c)].
Unacceptable conduct is defined as [Rules s 148]:
- unconscionable conduct (whether or not a particular individual is identified as having been disadvantaged by the conduct) [Rules paragraph 148(1)(a)]
- misleading or deceptive conduct [Rules paragraph 148(1)(b)]
- the making of a representation with respect to any future matter, such as the doing of, or the refusing to do, any act, if the maker of the representation does not
- have reasonable grounds for making the representation [Rules paragraph 148(1)(c)]
- advertising tuition fees for the course where there are reasonable grounds for believing that the provider will not be able to provide the course for those fees [Rules paragraph 148(1)(d)]
- use of physical force, or harassment or coercion, in connection with the application or enrolment in the course [Rules paragraph 148(1)(e)]
These definitions do not limit one another [Rules s 148(2)].
A student has 5 years from the census day for the course or part of the course concerned to apply for a re-credit of their FEE-HELP balance based on provider unacceptable conduct or the circumstances set out in subsection 71(3) and 71(4) of the Act [Rules s 149(2)]. However, the Secretary may extend this period [Rules s 149(3)].
The application must set out the grounds on which the applicant’s FEE-HELP balance is to be re-credited [Rules 149(4)].
The application must include the following to the extent that they are known to the applicant [Rules 149(5)]:
- details of the course to which the application relates
- details of the provider of that course
- the loan amount that is to be re-credited
- the applicant’s student identifier (if any), and
- any documents supporting the application.
The department will assess an application by a student for re-credit of their FEE-HELP balance in cases of provider or agent unacceptable conduct. Before making a decision, the delegate for the Secretary of the department must give to the provider a notice in writing stating they are considering making the decision. The notice will describe the proposed decision and state the reasons why the delegate is considering making it.
The notice will invite the provider to make a written submission to the department (within 28 days) on why that decision should not be made. In deciding whether to make the decision the delegate must consider any submissions received within the 28 day period.
The delegate will give the student and the provider a written notice of the decision and reasons for the decision as soon as practicable after the decision is made.
Students wanting more information should be directed to the ‘Debt complaints’ page at www.education.gov.au/debt-complaints . The Cancellation of a VET Student Loan Debt (unacceptable conduct) Application is linked to this page.
This information has been supplied by the Department of Education and Training and has been customised to our context. To remove any doubt – where information on this page is superseded or otherwise in direct conflict with specific information published by the department, the current published information by the department takes precedence and is to be relied upon. Additional policy and procedural information we have added to this information stands alone and is to be applied as stated in this policy.