Media Release: Study load updates avoid $11 million in student debts

6 June 2017

The Hon Alan Tudge MP

Minister for Human Services

A new payment review introduced by the Government in July 2016 has so far spared thousands of students from millions of dollars in debt.

Study load reviews are helping students on income support avoid the most common debt pitfall of not keeping their study load details up-to-date with Centrelink and ensures we have the right information so that students get the correct payments.

Between July 2016 and April 2017, around 80,000 reviews were completed which helped students avoid more than $11 million in debts. The reviews are continuing.

It works by prompting students to update their study load information at key times, such as HECS-HELP census cut-off dates, enrolment periods and semester changes.

The Department sends letters to randomly selected students telling them about the mandatory reviews. Follow-up SMS reminders are also sent, if needed.

Students can easily complete their review on the go, using their Centrelink online account through myGov, or the Express Plus app, and they get an immediate outcome letting them know if their payment stays the same, if there are any changes, or if they need to provide more information.

Minister for Human Services, Alan Tudge said the review of study details represents an ongoing commitment to help students avoid a debt which they would have to pay back.

“This programme delivers on the Strengthening the Integrity of Welfare Payments 2015-16 budget measure, to make sure the right people get the right payment at the right time.

“The benefit is twofold – students avoid being paid money they would have to pay back later and taxpayer money is better targeted to where it is most needed.

“We always urge people to keep their details with Centrelink up-to-date. These reviews show when it comes to debt, prevention is better than a having to repay a debt owed to the taxpayer.”

In the future the Government is working to have changes in students’ study loads automatically updated in their Centrelink file. This avoids the need for students to manually update study load details at all.

As part of the WPIT programme, a trial is currently underway with two Australian universities to test this automated approach which will virtually eliminate the risk of overpayments.