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9.8.4 Payment of tertiary education course fees
The HECS‑HELP scheme is a student loan scheme for eligible students to pay their student contribution. HECS-HELP defers payment of student contribution amounts until the person commences employment and reaches the appropriate earning benchmark.
Most DVA clients will be eligible for the HECS-HELP scheme. They must apply for the scheme using the Request for Commonwealth support and HECS‑HELP form which is only available from the university they are enrolled in.
If the request for tertiary education is approved by DVA, the student contribution amount will be the amount DVA contributes.
There are two methods in which the student contribution amount can be paid. However, in both circumstances, the costs of the course fees needs to be included as a third party cost to a rehabilitation plan in ISH.
Payment of the student contribution amount for each unit of study may be paid once the client has successfully completed each unit of study. Clients will therefore need to provide their academic transcript to their rehabilitation provider for forwarding to DVA as soon as it is received at the end of each semester. Providers should upload the transcript to R&C ISH through the Provider Upload Portal. The DVA Rehabilitation Coordinator will therefore need to send the rehabilitation provider an email with information about how to upload to R&C ISH and the Transaction Reference Number (TRN) to be used for the individual client.
Payment of the student contribution amount for each unit of study can be paid "up front" before the client has completed each unit of study. However, Rehabilitation Coordinators are asked to note that the 10% upfront payment discount ceased on 1 January 2017 and this means that this option is no longer the most cost effective method of payment.
If an upfront payment is made, clients must still provide their academic transcript to their rehabilitation provider for forwarding to DVA as soon as it is received at the end of each study period. Providers should upload the transcript to R&C ISH through the Provider Upload Portal. This means that the DVA Rehabilitation Coordinator will need to send the rehabilitation provider an email with information about how to upload to R&C ISH and the Transaction Record Number (TRN) to be used for the individual client.
If the student contributation amount has already been paid for a unit which the client has failed, or has withdrawn from after the census date, DVA has the discretion to not pay for one subsequent unit which the client enrols in.
Failed or repeated units
As a general principle, DVA can only continue to support tertiary education where the Rehabilitation Coordinator has clear evidence that the client is successfully completing their course requirements and achieving at least a pass mark for each subject, in each study period they are undertaking. For this reason the client is required to submit their academic transcript for each study period as soon as it has been received. This is important as the client’s ability to continue to pass their units of study may affect whether DVA will continue to fund their studies.
Clients are expected to keep their rehabilitation provider informed as soon as they begin to experience difficulties and make sure that the provider is aware of circumstances in the client's life that are challenging. Clients are expected to approach the university's administrative support services to discuss options such as extensions for particular pieces of work, withdrawal prior to the university census date, or other alternatives in order to avoid failing a unit. They are expected to do this as soon as they begin to experience difficulties in meeting the requirements of the course. If appropriate, the client's rehabilitation provider may assist by setting up meetings, or accompanying a client while they meet with support services personnel. However, it is expected that wherever possible, clients will manage this requirement independently.
If a client fails a unit, does not complete, needs to defer a unit, or withdraws after the census date, this does not mean that DVA will immediately cease supporting the client’s tertiary education. However, the DVA Rehabilitation Coordinator will need to consider evidence from the client’s rehabilitation provider, justifying why support with tertiary studies should continue.
Information that will be considered in this context includes whether an unexpected situation has developed which has created challenges to the person being able to focus on their studies. These types of circumstances could include (but are not limited to) ongoing ill-health or a flaring of symptoms of an accepted condition(s), a relationship breakdown, or unexpected family crisis.
If a client fails or withdraws from a unit, they will be expected to:
- research their institution’s appeal policy to explore the possibility of re-sitting an exam, completing a supplementary assessment or having the fail grade amended to a withdrawal (if they failed);
- liaise with their institution to understand the academic implications of the fail or withdrawal on their ability to continue with their course; and
- explore the university support services available.
If no unexpected situations have arisen, and the client has not shown a clear commitment to meeting the course requirements, then the Rehabilitation Coordinator has the discretion to decide that DVA will no longer provide funding to assist the client to complete the course. In this case, where the client began their course prior to 29 May 2017, the decision, together with the reasons for ceasing the funding must be clearly communicated to the client and detailed notes must be recorded in the employee notes on Defcare. Where a client's study was approved after 29 May 2017, the determination, together with detailed case notes, must be recorded in the client's R&C ISH case and any relevant documentation about the decision uploaded as an attachment to R&C ISH.
It is the role of the DVA Rehabilitation Coordinator, and not the rehabilitation provider, to inform the client of any decisions regarding continuing support for tertiary studies.
What if a client is having issues passing units of study
Where a client is showing signs that they are struggling to successfully complete their course requirements, it is expected that the rehabilitation provider will be proactive in assisting the client to put strategies in place to address these issues. Rehabilitation providers have a responsibility to be aware of the student support services offered by the university at which the client is studying and ensure the client is accessing these as required. Support services may include:
- Disability support services - providing services like disability parking stickers and organising a scribe for an exam.
- Academic support services – services such as tutoring, extensions on assignments,
- re-sitting exams etc.
- Child support services – some institutions offer child care for students and these options should be investigated where the client has child care responsibilities.
- Administrative support – assistance to enrol in units, withdrawing from units before the census date, appealing failed units etc.
Rehabilitation providers are expected to keep in touch with the client’s DVA Rehabilitation Coordinator about the client’s progress in their course. This is particularly important if the client is experiencing difficulties in meeting their course requirements.
It is important that the rehabilitation provider works with the client to identity and explore the barriers that are preventing the client from successfully completing their tertiary studies. For example, it may be appropriate to include psychosocial rehabilitation activities, such as pain management or adjustment to disability counselling in the client’s rehabilitation plan if these issues are creating barriers to the client achieving their study goals. A pro-active approach must be taken to assist the client and respond to their current needs and circumstances.
Multiple failed units or withdrawals after the census date
As a general rule, DVA will only accept two failed subjects before ceasing to support a client’s ongoing tertiary studies. If a client fails or withdraws from a second unit after the census date in any subsequent study period, DVA will consider evidence from the client’s rehabilitation provider before making a determination. It is important to note that DVA is under no obligation to continue to support the client’s tertiary education however, the circumstances of each case are different and this must be managed on a case-by-case basis.
As an option of last resort, DVA may choose to negotiate with the client, and cease paying the client’s fees for one study period. This would mean that the client would be expected to pay the student contribution amount for all of the units in that period through the HELP-HECS scheme once they commence employment and reach the appropriate earning benchmark. The study would still be included as an activity under the client’s rehabilitation plan, but there would be no student contribution payments approved for that one study period. If the client successfully passes all enrolled units in that study period, DVA may re-commence payment of fees.
If the client is not prepared to meet the student contribution amount for units to be completed in this study period, then DVA will cease supporting their tertiary education studies. A new rehabilitation plan will therefore need to be developed, which focuses on assisting the person with other rehabilitation activities to assist them to return to work in civilian employment.