5 May 2023

Friday 5 May 2023

Media Release – ATN Universities analysis reveals true cost of HELP debts for most Australian students 

Recent reports of students facing Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) debts of hundreds of thousands of dollars are extreme cases according to new analysis by the Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN), which reveals that the average debt for most students is less than $34,000.

Australia’s income contingent loan scheme has revolutionised access to higher education in the past 40 years and is a system which has been replicated across the world. It delivers access to universities for students from all walks of life and backgrounds, many of whom would not normally have had that opportunity. The HELP system also means students are not required to pay up-front and are not required to make payments until they earn a full-time salary.

Based on analysis of students who commenced in 2021 and will enter the workforce in 2024 or 2025 after four years of study, ATN Universities found that:

  • 23 per cent will graduate with a debt of about $16,505
  • 43 per cent will graduate with a $33,220 debt; and,
  • 34 per cent will graduate with a $60,595 debt.

ATN fundamentally supports the system and has recommended to the Australian Government that funding mechanisms for teaching of domestic students be simplified, starting with a single student contribution rate for all courses and the fair cost of delivery to be covered by the Commonwealth contribution and loadings.

“The genius of HELP is that students aren’t required to pay a single cent up front, so there is no real cost to them until they are earning a full-time wage,” said ATN Universities Executive Director, Luke Sheehy. “In our recent Universities Accord submission, we also made the call for a fair balance between what the government pays and what the student pays.”

The table below provides examples of common degrees and total costs

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Frank Coletta (Manager, Media and Communications) m: 0468 987 295 e: