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36.1 - The Tertiary Collection of Student Information (TCSI)
A provider must report accurate and timely student information to the department. Delays to the reporting of accurate data can have consequences for students and providers and can affect the calculation of loan entitlements, student income support entitlements and the processing of loans. Providers are required to report, and where relevant, revise data within the timeframes that have been determined under section 19-70 of HESA. Full details on reporting requirements, including what, when and how to report are available on the TCSI website.
TCSI is used to:
- obtain data on HELP debts, statistical data, and data required for program management
- supply data to the myHELPbalance website to provide students with timely, accessible and accurate information about their study; and
- support the management of Commonwealth student loans and higher education eligibility, including scholarships
36.2 - Managing HELP limits
TCSI provides a mechanism through which providers can report and update data in real-time and receive near real-time information on the extent to which students have accessed OS-HELP loans and consumed their HELP balance. The accuracy of the information available depends on all providers reporting accurate loan data as soon as possible. In particular, TCSI provides return information on:
- what OS-HELP loans the student has accessed at all providers
- the student’s ‘available HELP balance’, which takes account of loans that have already consumed the student’s HELP balance and any loan repayments that have been applied to the student’s HELP balance
- the student’s ‘pending HELP balance’, which takes account of loans that have or will consume the student’s HELP balance and any loan repayments that have been applied to the student’s HELP balance; and
- the status of all loans that a provider has reported, including whether the loan has or will be covered by the student’s entitlements
Providers will also be able to access reports using ‘TCSI Analytics’ to determine how many and which of their students may be close to exhausting their HELP balance.
This information can be used by providers to help determine whether student contributions or tuition fees can be covered by a student’s HELP balance or whether these amounts will need to be recovered directly from the student.
The Commonwealth can only make payments to providers in respect of Commonwealth assisted students if those students are eligible for that assistance. Payments cannot be made on behalf of students who have exhausted their entitlements. Providers are encouraged to use the tools available in TCSI to help manage student entitlements in conjunction with their own processes to ensure that students have sufficient entitlements to enable access to HELP for their units.
36.3 - Management of Student Identifiers (USIs and CHESSNs)
From 1 January 2021, it is compulsory for new students commencing a new course of study to apply for and obtain a USI to be eligible for Commonwealth assistance (Commonwealth supported place (CSP), HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP and/or OS-HELP loan). From 1 January 2023, all students, including those that commenced prior to 1 January 2023, must apply for and obtain a USI in order to graduate and receive their award. From 1 January 2023, students requesting all Commonwealth assistance forms (CSP, HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP, OS‑HELP and SA-HELP) must have a USI.
The CHESSN will be gradually decommissioned and replaced by the USI.
From 2021, once a student has provided their USI, it will become the primary loan identifier and replace the functionality of the CHESSN.
If a student applied for Commonwealth financial assistance after 2005 they will have a CHESSN. Over the next three years, the CHESSN will be gradually decommissioned as the USI becomes the primary government identifier across higher education and VET.
A unique student identifier (USI and/or CHESSN) is a unique series of numbers and letters assigned to an individual that is used to manage information and access to HELP entitlements. A USI/CHESSN must be used by providers to communicate with the Commonwealth concerning a person who:
- is enrolled, or seeking to enrol, in a unit with the provider; and
- has indicated they are seeking Commonwealth assistance under HESA for the unit, or is a Commonwealth supported student for the unit [HESA section 169-30]
Notification of CHESSNs
Non-research students are notified of their CHESSN via the CAN [part 10] [Administration Guidelines chapter 4]. Research students must also be notified if they are allocated a CHESSN. A provider has discretion in how it advises a research student of their CHESSN.
Students who have been allocated a CHESSN will be able to access information on their use of Commonwealth assistance through myHELPbalance.
Managing multiple CHESSNs
Students must only have one CHESSN. While the CHESSN allocation process in TCSI reduces the number of multiple CHESSNs, it cannot eliminate them entirely. To reduce the possibility of a student being issued multiple CHESSNs, it is important that providers report as much identifying data as possible for their students as early as possible. The more data that is reported, the more robust the search will be, and this will reduce the possibility of creating multiple CHESSNs for a student.
If a student has been incorrectly allocated more than one CHESSN, they risk exceeding their HELP loan limit. If a student has been advanced HELP loans in excess of their HELP limit, the department will identify which unit(s) of study were not covered by the student’s HELP limit and may recover the excess loan amounts from the provider(s) that delivered the unit(s).
The department cannot make payments to providers for students who have exceeded the limit. It is the student’s responsibility to know their HELP balance before seeking Commonwealth loan support.
Where the TCSI system identifies that a student has more than one CHESSN, it will combine the student’s debt records against one CHESSN and remove the duplicate. Providers will receive a notification from TCSI if a previously allocated CHESSN has been changed and providers will be able to retrieve the correct CHESSN from TCSI. Where a provider has reason to believe that a student has multiple CHESSNs (for which the system has not identified), it should notify the department as soon as possible through the contact information on the TCSI website.
If a student only has a CHESSN, can they graduate?
If a student completes their studies before 1 January 2023, they can graduate and receive their award without a USI. From 2023 all students, regardless of commencement date, will be required to provide their USI to be able to graduate and receive their award.
Why is it important to only have one USI?
As the USI replaces the CHESSN, it will be used as is an important identifier to monitor and manage Commonwealth assistance information, especially for identifying whether a student has reached their HELP loan limit. The HELP loan limit applies to all study for HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP and VET Student Loan.
As the USI replaces the CHESSN, it will become the key identifier for students and providers to obtain information on HELP balances and for interacting with the department on other student matters. Do providers need to verify the USI?
USIs will be verified once arriving in government systems. It is not compulsory; however, we strongly encourage education providers to verify USIs, prior to submission into government systems. By verifying a student’s USI, providers can reduce the number of unverified USIs that will require correction. When verifying a USI, it is important that the first name, last name and date of birth match the details on the student’s USI account.
If a student is uncertain, they can always log-in to their USI account to check their details on the USI website.
Providers can verify a USI through one (or more) of the following:
- Verify USIs through the USI Registry System
The USI Registry System has been updated for higher education providers. Providers can verify USIs through the web based USI Organisation Portal, and/or integrate USI web services into their Student Management Systems. Find more information on the USI website.
- Use the Government’s eCAF system
The Government’s electronic Commonwealth Assistance Form has been updated for 2021 to include validation and verification functionality. Updates include USI API verification, similar to the approach used for verifying Tax File Numbers. When a student provides their USI in the Government eCAF, if verification fails, the student will be advised as to which detail has not passed (first name, last name, date of birth or USI). 2021 eCAFs are available now in the Government eCAF portal. Higher education providers can access the Government eCAF Training environment to compare eCAF definition templates and update their own eCAFs.
- Build verification functionality into your Student Management System
If you are not using the Government eCAF, then your own solution should replicate the Government’s approved eCAF. The 2021 eCAF training environment, which includes the USI functionality, is available for you to test and view. Please use this to develop the recording and verification of USIs in your 2021 eCAF. Further information for developers is available through the department’s eCAF Developers Google Group.
- Verify via TCSI
Development is underway for TCSI to allow USIs to be verified via B2G APIs and the TCSI data entry portal. TCSI will verify all USIs in real-time from mid-2021 onwards. If verification of the student’s USI, first name, last name or date of birth matching the USI fail, the education provider will be sent a notification, similar to when TFN verification fails.
Can providers retrieve a USI on behalf of a student?
Providers can search for a student’s existing USI using the USI Organisation Portal, provided they have the student’s permission. Read information on how to do this on the USI website.
How will the CHESSN be decommissioned?
From 2021, USIs will gradually replace CHESSNs as the primary government identifier for tertiary students.
TCSI will automatically allocate and manage CHESSNs for new and continuing students in the system for quality control until the transition to USI and TCSI is complete. Read more about how the CHESSN is managed in TCSI.
New students must obtain and provide a USI if seeking a CSP or Commonwealth financial assistance. These students will be automatically allocated a CHESSN in TCSI for government administration purposes until the transition to USI and TCSI is complete. Continuing students may continue to use their CHESSN until they provide a USI.
When do international students require a USI?
Onshore international students will require a USI in order to receive their higher education award from 1 January 2023 onwards.
Will international offshore students require a USI?
At this stage there is no requirement for an offshore international student to obtain a USI.