Congratulations! After years of hard work at high school or beyond you’re finally off to uni.
By now, you may have received an early or first round offer, or you may still be waiting to see what your future holds in the subsequent offer rounds.
When listing your course preferences, you’ve probably considered your career aspirations, the reputation of the course and the location, and ranking of the university – but have you considered the costs? Or given any thought to how – or when – you might pay for them?
How much does university cost?
The total cost of an undergraduate degree in Australia depends on several factors, such as whether you’re studying at a public or private university, what you’re studying and how many years the degree takes.
The government subsidises some degrees, so what you’ll actually pay depends on whether you’re studying under a commonwealth supported place or a full-fee place.
Commonwealth supported places
Commonwealth supported places (CSPs) are subsidised by the Federal Government and are available to all Australian citizens studying an undergraduate degree at a public university.
Rather than paying the total degree cost you pay a student contribution, with the government paying the rest of the degree cost directly to the uni.1
Your student contribution depends on what you study, with study areas divided into three bands. The universities themselves then set the student contribution rate for each band - these should be listed on their websites.2
The figures below are the maximum amounts per band for 2017, based on a full-time enrolment of eight units per year.
Band 1: up to $6,349 per year for courses such as humanities, behavioural science, social studies, clinical psychology, foreign languages, visual and performing arts, education and nursing.
Band 2: up to $9,050 per year for courses such as mathematics, statistics, computing, built environment, health, engineering, science, surveying and agriculture.
Band 3: up to $10,596 per year for courses such as law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, accounting, administration, economics and commerce.3
These places aren’t subsidised by the government, so the student pays the full degree cost. They generally apply to international students, those studying at private institutions or those completing postgraduate study. Fees vary between courses and are set by the individual institutions.4
How will you pay for it?
These figures probably look daunting, but thankfully, you can defer your fees with a government loan.
While interest free, these loans are subject to indexation, so the amount you owe is adjusted annually to keep up with changes in the cost of living.6 In recent years this has been between a 1-3% increase per year.7
No limits or fees apply to borrowing under the HECS-HELP scheme; however, limits do apply to the FEE-HELP program. For 2017, the limit is $100,879 for most students, while those studying medicine, dentistry and veterinary science have a limit of $126,101. There is also a loan fee of 25% applied to FEE-HELP loans.8
Not all private education providers can offer FEE-HELP loans. Find out here which institutions are approved private higher education providers.
When will you need to pay it back?
Your HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP loan doesn’t need to begin to be repaid until your earnings meet the minimum repayment threshold, which is currently set at $54,869, and varies each year.9
Once you are earning above the minimum repayment threshold, payments are taken out of your before-tax salary. The percentage you pay is between 4% and 8% of your salary, increasing with how much you earn.10
Other costs to consider
Aside from tuition, you’ll need to pay for textbooks and other study materials, as well as transport, at a minimum. But depending on which university you attend, you may also be faced with moving away from home and paying for rent, food and bills.
If you’re lucky, your parents might help with some of these costs, or you may need to get a part-time job.
You may also be eligible for a government payment, such as youth allowance if you’re under 25 or Austudy for 25 year olds and over. Though your eligibility for each of these depends on your personal assets and income, and in some cases, your partner’s or parent’s.
We’re here to help
However you choose to pay your university costs, it’s a good idea to do a budget. Our budget planner calculator can help you work out how much you need to save and what you can spend so you can still have fun.
Our new Bett3r Account helps you to budget and set money aside effortlessly, with pay, save and spend accounts.
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The same approach to managing day-to-day money can be applied to long-term investments.