Do you need financial assistance to be able to pursue your education in natural therapies? Take advantage of the VET Student Loans (VSL) scheme of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) so that you can obtain the qualifications you need for the career of your dreams. The best part of it is that you don't have to pay your student loan debt until you have completed your studies and landed a job. This guide explains everything that you need to know about VSL and the courses eligible for loan applications.
What is the VET Student Loans Program?
The VET Student Loans program is a student loan scheme of the Commonwealth Government's DESE that provides financial assistance to students taking tertiary and vocational education. It supersedes VET FEE-HELP, which ended in 2016 after the Australian government discovered non-compliance issues concerning some VET providers and an investigation ensued.
If you think you have incurred a VET FEE-HELP debt which you aren't liable for, you may contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman (VSLO).
VET Student Loans are only available for eligible courses such as diploma qualifications or other higher educational programs. That means, Certificate IV courses are not covered by the loan scheme. If you wish to avail of the program, better check first if your preferred education provider is approved to offer it.
Eligible students for VSL should be Australian residents or have met Australia's long-term residency requirements. A permanent humanitarian visa holder who resides in Australia most of the time can also make loan applications. However, holders of temporary visas or permanent visas in other countries are not qualified for any student loan program existing in Australia. The other entry requirements to the VSL program are as follows:
- You must submit a valid Tax File Number (TFN) as loan repayments are made through the tax system. Your personal details on your TFN must match those you provided your course provider. If you don't have a TFN, check the student fact sheet of the Australian Taxation Office for the application procedure.
- You must have a Unique Student Identifier.
- You must submit a copy of your secondary certificate or high school diploma, as well as other documents from previous studies proving that you meet the academic suitability requirement for a level VET qualification.
- You must meet the Exit Level 3 criteria in the Australian Core Skills Framework.
- You must undergo VET Student Loan counselling
How Does the VET Student Loan Work?
The VET Student Loans was launched in 2017 to help students undertaking a vocational education and training (VET) course pay their tuition fees, grandfathering existing VET FEE-HELP students until 2018.
VSL has no age restrictions, so anyone aged 18 or older who needs help with financial matters to pursue higher education can apply so long as they meet the loan eligibility requirements. However, if you are under 18, your parent or guardian must sign a parental consent form and submit it to your training provider before they can send the electronic Commonwealth Assistance Form (eCAF) to your personal email address. The eCAF is an online form where you can make a valid request for VET Student Loans.
Once you have completed the electronic Commonwealth Assistance Form (eCAF), you have to submit it within two business days upon enrollment or before the first census date so that your loan covers your whole course. The census date refers to the last day you can submit an eCAF to access your VET Student Loan. If you fail to submit it before the census date, your loan will not cover your course for that payment period.
It's important to note that no VSL-approved student's parent or guardian will be held responsible for any loan repayment, neither will their credit rating be affected should their child fail to pay their student loan debt. Once you take out a loan, consider it as a personal debt obligation to the government that can result in tax repayment implications.
VSL students various payment options. You are not expected to pay your debt right after completing your studies. The government will give you time to establish a good career. Once your income is higher than the minimum repayment threshold, that's the only time that your compulsory repayments will begin.
Are There Other Important VSL Information You Should Keep in Mind?
VSL plays a pivotal role in the success of many students. There's no denying that higher education comes with a hefty price tag and not everyone has the resources to pay their tuition fees upfront. Through the VSL program, everyone can receive quality education to build a strong foundation for their future. Whether you're looking to pursue a career in the field of natural health or elsewhere, you can rely on the government to shoulder all, or a portion, of the fees for courses that you wish to take until such time when you are financially able to pay them back.
To prevent potential loan disputes or inappropriate loan debts, the Australian government advise students to keep note of the following:
- Only students who enrol in a VET course at the diploma level or higher are qualified to apply for VET Student Loans.
- The maximum student loan limit, otherwise known as loan cap limit, is calculated based on the units of study.
- Loan caps are updated annually to keep up with the cost of living.
- You cannot borrow more than the maximum loan amount set for your course. If the tuition fee for your course is higher than your loan limit, you'll have to pay the difference.
- Make sure to keep track of your billing period and other loan obligations on your Commonwealth Assistance Notice (CAN). Any loan balances you may have under the VET FEE-HELP loan program, if you have any, will have to be repaid along with your VSL debt in the future. Check the Study Assist website regularly.
- Complete the Progression Form the eCAF system sends you every four months to avoid losing access to your loan. Completing the online student engagement form validates your status as a genuine student and the progress that you're making in your course.
- If you wish to withdraw from your course, put this into writing and submit it to your course provider before the census day to receive a full 100% refund of any upfront payments. Otherwise, you will still incur a VSL debt.
- If you withdraw from your course after the census date, you need to fill out and submit a re-credit application form for the cancellation of your personal debt.
- If you're changing your education provider, you have to accomplish another eCAF to be able to use the remainder of your loan. Let's say you're taking a natural therapy course with a TAFE provider for three months now, and then you decide to continue the same course in university through VSL, you have to declare how much of the loan you have accessed with your previous training provider. Otherwise, you need to pay student fees not covered by your loan amount.
What Natural Therapy Courses are VSL Approved?
The Australian government's My Skills website provides a comprehensive list of VSL approved courses and training providers, including those under the category of complementary medicine such as the following:
- Diploma of Beauty Therapy
- Diploma of Counselling
- Diploma of Fitness
- Diploma of Remedial Massage
- Advanced Diploma of Myotherapy
- Graduate Diploma of Counselling and Integrated Psychotherapy
If you're interested in something else, it would be best to send your enquiry to the training provider of your choice to find out if they are VSL approved. But if you haven't decided which course to take yet, head over to our list of relevant courses on the Natural Therapy Pages.