A New Era for VET FEE-HELP Begins

A new era has begun for VET FEE-HELP, the highly troubled Commonwealth Government loans scheme for vocational education and training (VET) students.  It’s called “VET Student Loans”, and it replaces VET FEE-HELP, as announced by Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training on 5 October 2016.

“The new VET Student Loans program will return integrity to the vocational education sector and deliver a win-win for students and taxpayers through a range of protections,” Minister Birmingham said.

“We will close off new loans under VET FEE-HELP at the end of 2016, with the new program including course restrictions for providers, loan caps to begin from January 2017 and student engagement requirements commencing from mid-2017.

“Central amongst our new program is the need for providers to go through a rigorous application process and extensive monitoring and evaluation to ensure they are delivering education that students and employers value and that taxpayers are willing to continue supporting, Minister Birmingham said.

Dr Don Perlgut, CEO Community Colleges Australia, comments on the announcement:

CCA is particularly pleased to read in the new compliance powers that, “Providers will be prohibited from using brokers or marketing agents to interact or engage with students at the time of enrolment, or any other time throughout their training, ensuring enrolment processes and student engagement are the sole responsibility of approved providers.”

We are uncertain as yet how community education providers will be treated under the planned new VET Student Loans program.

In June 2016, CCA provided an extensive submission to the Australian Government Department of Education and Training’s Redesigning VET FEE-HELP: Discussion Paper.

John Radvan, Compliance and Quality Assurance Co-ordinator, WEA Hunter, comments on the announcement:

“On reflection it is excellent that the Government has taken such strong measures to stamp out unethical behaviour to which Community Colleges were never a part of. It is hopeful that this is the beginning of all of us being able to get on with the job of providing excellent educational services to our clients.

“While the program is well designed in many respects I have to reserve judgement until I see what the list of approved qualifications are which still haven’t been released. It is hopeful that the Government is not short sighted about that and acknowledges a broad range of qualifications in many industries that will all help to contribute to a diverse and strong economy in their own ways.”

Information for providers is available from the following specific links on the Department’s website:

Or via the Department’s general page on VET Student Loans.

News coverage on this topic includes:

“VET FEE-HELP: Taxpayers foot the bill for $9 million diplomas as scheme shut down,” by Eryk Bagshaw, The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 October 2016.

“New VET loan scheme to exclude shonky providers,” by Michelle Grattan, The Conversation, 5 October 2016.

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