Debt complaints

For: 

This page provides information about VET FEE-HELP and VET Student Loans debt issues and complaints, including complaints about providers.

Students with concerns about loans for higher education study (e.g. university study) should refer to Study Assist.

Normally a "debt dispute" is a matter that is between you and your training provider.

How do I find out about my debt and the amount owing?

By logging on to the myUniAssist portal, you can see how much you have already borrowed. myUniAssist shows your provider and course, detailing the units of study, census dates, tuition fees and loan fees, and the total amount of debt incurred.

To log in to myUniAssist, you will need your Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Number (CHESSN). Your CHESSN is a unique identifier you will have for your whole student life. It is printed on your Commonwealth Assistance Notice (CAN) given to you by your provider.

If you can't find your CAN or CHESSN, ask your provider. If you do not know your CHESSN and cannot contact your provider, please email HEIMS.datacollections@education.gov.au to request your CHESSN, noting that you will have to provide personal information to verify your identity.

Please note that myUniAssist does not:

  • show you how much you owe
  • Include any debts incurred before 2005, or
  • show any repayments you have made.

You will need to log in to your myGov account to see how much you owe and any repayments you have made.

If you don't have a myGov account, you can set one up by following the instructions on the ATO website, or you can call the ATO on 13 28 61.

I have a complaint about my debt - what should I do?

Find out the details of your debt

Look up the details of your debt by using the myUniAssist portal (see information above on how to do this). Investigating the details of your debt will show you:

  • the course/s and units of study for which you incurred the debt
  • through which training provider you incurred your debt, and
  • which year you incurred the debt.

Contact your training provider

After viewing myUniAssist you will know the name of the training provider associated with your debt. In most cases, the fastest way to resolve your debt grievance is to go directly to your training provider.

All training providers are required to have a formal complaints process. The provider's complaints handling process must accept your complaint about your VET FEE‑HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt. A provider can cancel a VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt depending on the nature of the complaint.

If you are not satisfied with how the provider has dealt with your complaint, you can ask your provider to review their decision. All providers are required to have an internal and external review process as part of their formal complaints process.

Check if your circumstances allow you to apply for a remission of debt under existing requirements.

VET FEE‑HELP or VET Student Loans debts may be remitted if your circumstances meet existing requirements, which include:

  • Withdrawing before the census day
  • Special circumstances
  • Unacceptable conduct
  • Inappropriate conduct under VET FEE-HELP.

Withdrawal before the Census Date

You should not incur any loan debt for units of study you enrolled in but formally withdrew from before the census day. More information on Withdrawing from study is available on the StudyAssist website. If this has happened to you, raise it with your provider through its formal complaints process and ask for the VET FEE-HELP/VET Student Loans debt to be cancelled. A provider has the ability to remit or cancel your VET FEE‑HELP/VET Student Loans debt depending on the nature of the complaint. The provider's formal complaints process will provide you with a right of review if you do not agree with the provider's decision.

If you believe that your provider has not been helpful, you can contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman.

Special circumstances

All training providers must have a process in place for you to request the cancellation of your debt if, after you started to study, certain ‘special circumstances’ occurred.

Special circumstances are not all circumstances but only those circumstances (such as illness or a motor vehicle accident) that are:

  • beyond your control,
  • occurred or worsened after the census date, and
  • prevented you from doing further study.

Please note you cannot apply for the cancellation of your debt because of 'special circumstances' for units of study that you have successfully completed.

Time limits apply for submitting an application to your provider for debt cancellation under special circumstances:

  • for VET FEE-HELP – applications must be made within 12 months of your formal withdrawal from the unit of study or from the end of the unit if no withdrawal occurred
  • for VET Student Loans – applications must be made within 12 months of the census day for the unit.

Your provider may give you more time if it was not possible for you to apply within the 12-month period.

If you think special circumstances may apply to you, you will need to complete your provider's special circumstances form, and submit the form to your provider.

All providers are required to have a formal review process that applies if your provider rejects your special circumstances request and decides not to cancel your debt. If you are not satisfied with how your provider has dealt with your special circumstances request, you can ask your provider to review their decision. All providers are required to have an internal review process as part of their special circumstances process.

If you are still not satisfied following an internal review by your provider, you can then apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in your state or territory to have your provider's decision reviewed.

Unacceptable conduct

You may request the Secretary of the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business (the department) to cancel your VET FEE-HELP or VET Student Loans debt if your provider has engaged in 'unacceptable conduct' under the legislation. 

Unacceptable conduct only applies to:

  • conduct that occurred after 1 January 2016; and
  • conduct that falls within the definition of ‘unacceptable conduct’ in the legislation—for example, for VET Student Loans, harassment or coercion by a provider or conduct that is misleading, deceptive or unconscionable.

Time limits apply to submission of unacceptable conduct re-credit applications:

  • for VET FEE-HELP – applications must be made within 3 years after the period during which you undertook, or were to undertake, the unit of study, unless it was not possible for the application to be made during those 3 years
  • for VET Student Loans – applications must be made within 5 years of the census day for the unit, or within the period as extended by the Secretary of the department.

The VET Student Loans Ombudsman has responsibility for considering complaints under unacceptable conduct provisions.

If you think this may apply to you, you should submit a complaint to the VET Student Loans Ombudsman through their website.

The department previously considered these complaints, and will assess the complaints it has received up to and including 30 September 2019. If you have already submitted a complaint to the department, the department will make a decision and inform you about that decision.

Inappropriate conduct under VET FEE-HELP

The Australian Government has introduced new legislation to provide a remedy for students who incurred a VET FEE-HELP debt because of inappropriate behaviour by some VET FEE-HELP providers (or their agents).

This legislation allows debts to be remitted if the conduct of the provider is determined to be inappropriate. The new remedy commenced on 1 January 2019.

For more information on the remedy, refer to the VET Student Loans Ombudsman.

If you still believe that your issue has not been addressed (noting that you would have incurred a liability if you cancelled your enrolment after the provider’s published census date) and further action is required, you can contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman or call 1300 362 072.

The role of the VET Student Loans Ombudsman is to manage and investigate complaints regarding both the VET FEE-HELP scheme and the VET Student Loans program.

The Ombudsman is separate from the department and has its own legal powers to investigate and deal with enquiries and complaints.

Frequently Asked Questions

All providers are required to have a formal complaints process. The provider's complaints handling process must accept your complaint about your VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt. A provider can cancel a VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt depending on the nature of the complaint.

If you are not satisfied with how the provider has dealt with your complaint, you can ask your provider to review their decision. All providers are required to have an internal and external review process as part of their formal complaints process.

If your provider has not been helpful, or if the provider has closed and you are unable to obtain any information from them, you may wish to contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman to discuss the complaints process.

Please note, the Ombudsman will normally not commence an investigation of a complaint unless you have first tried to resolve your complaint with your provider. If you have not done so, the Ombudsman may advise you to raise your complaint with your provider in the first instance.

If you want to check your reported VET FEE-HELP debts by logging onto the myUniAssist portal you will need your Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Number (CHESSN) to login. Your CHESSN is in the email or letter that you were sent, or email HEIMS.datacollections@education.gov.au to request your CHESSN, noting that you will have to provide personal information to verify your identity.

You should not incur any loan debt for units of study you enrolled in but formally withdrew from before the census day. More information on Withdrawing from study is available on the StudyAssist website. If this has happened to you, raise it with your provider through its formal complaints process and ask for the VET FEE-HELP/VET Student Loans debt to be cancelled. A provider has the ability to remit or cancel your VET FEE-HELP/VET Student Loans debt depending on the nature of the complaint. The provider's formal complaints process will provide you with a right of appeal if you do not agree with the provider's decision.

If you believe that your provider has not been helpful, you can contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman.

When an education institute re-credits your VET FEE-HELP/VET Student Loans balance and remits the debt, the provider must tell the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business (the department). Providers submit data to the department monthly. The department will advise the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), which then applies the revision to your tax records. Please note: it may take some time before a debt cancellation shows in the student’s ATO record.  

On confirmation that your provider has submitted a revisions file to the department, you may wish to contact the ATO  and advise that a revisions file has been forwarded to the department in relation to your debt*. If you have concerns, you can discuss options available to you with the ATO regarding your tax matters.

Contact details for the ATO:

  • Website: Study and training support loans
  • Online: ATO online services to view loan accounts and other information such as Payment Reference Number (PRN) and voluntary repayment options,
  • Telephone: 13 28 61 for information about your HELP account and personal tax topics,
  • Telephone: 13 36 77 TTY or 1300 555 727 TTY for hearing or speech impaired students, or
  • Mailing address: Australian Taxation Office, PO BOX 1032, ALBURY NSW 2640.

Please note: the ATO will conduct identification checks for your enquiry, so remember to have your Tax File Number handy.

Additional information about repaying your HELP loan is available on the StudyAssist website.

* Due to a retrospective validation process applied to data reported by providers, this may result in the data being revised up to eight weeks after it has been reported. This revised data is then transferred to the Australian Taxation Office.

If you believe your provider has not been cooperative, you can contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman.

All providers are required to have a formal complaints process. The provider's complaints handling process must accept your complaint about your VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt. A provider can cancel a VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt depending on the nature of the complaint.

If you are not satisfied with how your provider has dealt with your complaint, you can ask your provider to review their decision about your complaint. All providers are required to have an internal and external review process as part of their formal complaints process.

If your complaint is about the quality of the course, the teachers or the course materials, you should make a complaint to the National VET Regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA).

If the complaint is not about the quality of the course and your provider has not been helpful, or if the provider has closed and you are unable to obtain any information from them, you may wish to contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman to discuss the complaints process.

Quality of training/student treatment complaints

As the national regulator for VET, ASQA is responsible for investigating allegations about the quality of training or student treatment by training providers. ASQA uses information from the complaints process to determine how it regulates certain providers. Should you have concerns regarding your experiences, you may wish to submit a formal complaint to ASQA via their complaints page.

Alternatively, you can contact the National Training Complaints Hotline on 13 38 73.

Information about tuition assurance and the options available to students is available on the Provider Closures page.

If you still have questions about the tuition assurance options you have been offered, please contact the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business: VETTuitionAssurance@employment.gov.au.

If you have a debt grievance and your training provider is no longer operating, you can contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman to discuss the complaints process.