Higher education providers tuition protection service

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Tuition Protection protects all domestic students at private higher education providers against default, whether the students pay their own fees up-front or use a HELP loan to pay for their studies. A default is where the provider closes, stops offering a course or unit of study, or fails to start a course or unit of study that has been paid for.

The TPS assists students to continue their studies or receive a refund of their tuition fees or have their HELP balance re-credited if they used a HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP loan to pay for their studies.

The TPS is sector funded through provider levies. The levies fund the placement, refund, and re-credit activities of the TPS.

Most universities, TAFEs and Government funded providers are exempt from the TPS levies. This does not prevent those providers from enrolling affected students as replacement providers.

All other registered higher education providers are covered by the TPS for HELP assisted students and for domestic up-front paying students. There is no need to register for the TPS. Coverage is automatic upon registration with TEQSA.

Providers who expect they may be at risk of defaulting in the near future are encouraged to contact the TPS as early as possible at operations@tps.gov.au.

Ongoing provider requirements

The Higher Education Support Act 2003 and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011 set out the ongoing requirements for Higher Education providers.

It is important that providers fulfill their provider reporting requirements which includes:

  • students’ contact details
  • records of unit completions and course completions
  • students’ unique student identifiers (USI)
  • data require to be reported through the Tertiary Collection of Student Information (TCSI).

Levies

All non-exempt private higher education providers with HELP and/or up‑front fee-paying students are required to pay the HELP Tuition Protection Levy and/or the Up-front Payments Tuition Protection Levy.

The levies are made of the following components:

  1. administrative fee component (determined by the Minister for Education)
  2. risk rated premium component (determined by the TPS Director)
  3. special tuition protection component (determined by the TP Director)

Administrative fee

The Minister sets the administrative fee component of the levy each year.

Risk rated premium and special tuition protection components

Risk factors

The risk factors determined by the TP Director are intended to reflect the risk of default. They are:

  • financial strength
  • completion rate
  • non-compliance history and registration renewal

Special tuition component

By 1 August each year the TP Director must, by legislative instrument, specify a percentage for that year.

Defaults

A default occurs when a provider closes, fails to start, or stops offering a course or unit of study. Please contact the TPS immediately if you are at risk of defaulting. We will help guide you through your next steps.

Reporting the default

Providers are required to notify their students and the TPS Director in writing within 24 hours of the default occurring. There are also other reporting and notice requirements providers must fulfill upon default.

Please refer to provider default obligations page for these when completing these steps.

Obligations if a provider defaults

If a provider has defaulted, within 14 days the provider must either:

  • arrange for the student to be offered a suitable replacement unit or suitable replacement course and the student accepts the offer in writing
  • pay the student a refund of any up-front payments for the affected unit(s) or re-credit the student’s HELP balance for any HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP assistance used to pay for the affected unit(s) and repay the Commonwealth.

Please note, students can choose between continuing their studies at the replacement course you identify or receiving a refund or HELP loan re‑credit.

If there is no suitable replacement course and or unit, providers are required to pay the refund for up-front fee-paying students. Similarly, for HELP students, providers are required to re-credit the student’s HELP balance with an amount equal to the amounts of HECS‑HELP or FEE-HELP assistance the student received for the affected unit(s) of study.

In fulfilling these obligations, the student must be satisfied with their refund or replacement course option and accept the offer in writing.

Providers should contact the TPS immediately if they are unable to meet these obligations.

Replacement providers

The TPS may contact providers with an opportunity to enrol additional students. This will happen when there has been a default and there are students who wish to continue their studies.

Becoming a replacement provider

Higher Education providers are encouraged to act as replacement providers. Providers identified as delivering possible suitable replacement courses will be contacted by the TPS to discuss:

  • the willingness and capacity of the provider to act as a replacement provider
  • the date affected students would be able to commence in a replacement course
  • the incentive payment (if any) that may be available to assist with administrative costs of taking on affected students.

The process of placing students is multi-faceted:

  1. the TPS formally advises students of suitable replacement courses
  2. students contact their potential replacement providers and discuss whether the replacement courses will meet their personal needs
  3. students inform the TPS of their preferred replacement courses
  4. the TPS contacts the replacement providers to advise them of the students’ preferences
  5. the replacement providers contact the students to facilitate offers and enrolment (if there are any problems at this stage, please contact the TPS)
  6. the replacement provider enters into a signed student placement agreement with the student.

Incentives for becoming a replacement provider

Incentive payments may be made to replacement providers. The purpose of these payments is to contribute towards the unavoidable costs associated with accepting additional students.

The TPS may offer incentive payments to facilitate positive outcomes for students who are affected by defaults. There is no minimum or maximum incentive payment amount.

The incentive payment becomes payable to the replacement provider after the student's first reported census date, if the following have occurred:

  • the student is enrolled
  • an Agreement, signed by the provider and the student, or their guardian, is provided to the TPS, and
  • the student submits an eCAF.

Replacement provider obligations

The tuition protection arrangements impose obligations on replacement providers. These include:

  • notifying the TP Director in writing of a student’s acceptance of an offer of a place in a replacement course within 14 days of the acceptance
  • granting course credits for units of study of the original course successfully completed by a student
  • not charging the student any tuition fees or student contribution amounts for replacement components of the affected part of the original course for which tuition fees were paid
  • enrolling a student in the replacement unit or course as soon as practicable.