The Government has today released the new vocational education and training (VET) guidelines, implementing important reforms to further safeguard the VET FEE-HELP student loan program.

Assistant Minister for Education and Training Senator Simon Birmingham said the latest measures come into effect in two tranches – 1 July 2015 and 1 January 2016 – and tighten VET marketing, recruitment and administration practises to provide better protection for students.

“From today, if a student wants to withdraw from training on or before the census date, a provider will no longer be able to charge a withdrawal fee or place some other administrative barrier in the student’s way,” Senator Birmingham said.

“Training providers and their agents will no longer be able to market VET FEE-HELP-supported training as ‘free’ or ‘government-funded’. They will also have to publish which agents and brokers they use, and will be responsible for the conduct of their agent or broker.

“From 1 January 2016, students will no longer incur a VET FEE-HELP debt for a whole course in one hit upfront. Tuition fees will have to be spread evenly over four periods for each course. Students will also receive invoices two weeks before census dates, ensuring they have all the information they need to make their study and payment decisions.

“From the start of next year, students will have a two day ‘cooling off’ period after enrolment to decide if they want a VET FEE-HELP loan. We have listened to students who felt under pressure to make study and payment decisions on the spot, or didn’t know what they were signing up for. Students will now have full information and time to carefully consider their options.

“Providers will have until January 2016 to comply with this second tranche of measures, with the later implementation date allowing them time to adjust their processes.

“The unacceptable activities of a small minority of training providers are leaving vulnerable Australians with a lifetime of unwanted debt and taxpayers with liabilities that may never be repaid, and are damaging the reputation of the vast majority of public, private and not-for-profit training providers who are doing the right thing.

“I am determined to stamp out these practices, which flourished under Labor’s failure to implement appropriate compliance measures when the previous Government expanded availability to VET FEE-HELP in 2012.

“These new measures are complemented by significant reforms already implemented across the VET sector, including significant improvements to the VET FEE-HELP scheme, a National Training Complaints Hotline (13 38 37), improved data reporting, $68 million to strengthen the Australia Skills Quality Authority, new Trade Support Loans for apprentices and tough new National Standards for all training organisations,” Senator Birmingham said.

Media contact: Rachael Thompson 0427 729 987