How do HECS fees work? Australian uni fees explained.

What is HECS?

HECS stands for Higher Education Contribution Scheme. Under HECS, students only pay part of their university fees and the government pays the rest. The part that the student pays is called the student contribution. University students whose studies are funded under HECS are referred to as being commonwealth supported.


Who is eligible for HECS?

All domestic students enrolled in undergraduate courses are eligible for HECS. If you’re an Australian resident, you are a domestic student. (If you’re not sure what an undergraduate degree is, read this post which spells it all out.)


How to calculate your student contribution

Student contributions are charged per unit (or subject). Different units are charged at different rates. All units fall into one of the following pricing groups:

Band 3 – $1,305 per unit
Includes: law, accounting, administration, economics, commerce, dentistry, medicine, veterinary science

Band 2 – $1,114.63 per unit
Includes: mathematics, statistics, computing, built environment, other health, allied health, science, engineering, surveying, agriculture

Band 1 – $782.00 per unit
Includes: humanities, behavioural science, social studies, education, clinical psychology, foreign languages, visual and performing arts, nursing

In most courses you will study a mix of units from different bands. Take a three year Bachelor of Commerce, for example. A student might choose to study accounting, economics, Arabic, science and computing. Over three years, their degree structure might look something like this:

HECS calc subjects

The accounting and economics subjects (band 3) would cost $1,306 per subject, while the statistics, computing and science subjects (band 2) would cost $1,114.63 each. The Arabic language subjects (band 1) would cost a mere $782 each:

HECS calc prices

Hopefully that makes sense!


When do you need to pay your student contribution?

You don’t need to pay a cent up front. Domestic undergraduate students are eligible for a HECS-HELP loan. This means the government pays the student contribution on your behalf and you have to pay the government back when you start earning a decent income. How does HECS-HELP work? I’ve written a seperate post about this.


Oi! Before you go, read this:

You can read more info on HECS and HECS-HELP at the government’s study assist website. If you visit that site, you will notice that the student contribution (i.e. the price) is quoted on an annual basis, not on a per unit basis. It looks a bit like this:

Band 3: $10,266.00 per year

Band 2: $8,768.00 per year

Band 1: $6,152.00 per year

To work out the cost of each subject we divided these figures by eight. This is because most courses have eight subjects per year. That means each subjects or unit costs one eighth of the full-year price for each band.

In the university system, they express as one eighth of an equivalent full time student load (EFTSL). You might see it expressed as a decimal: i.e. 0.125 EFTSL.

Some subjects might be worth more than one eighth. If they’re twice as intensive, they might be worth one quarter (0.250) of an EFTSL. When this happens, the subject will usually cost double the amount 0.125 EFTSL subject. When this happens, you’ll probably study one less subject that year, so it won’t doesn’t affect the total cost of your degree.

All the figures used in this post are the 2016 figures. The numbers change each year as the government adjusts for inflation.