How to tackle tertiary education costs with your kids

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How to tackle tertiary education costs with your kids

If higher education is on the cards for your children in the not too distant future, sitting down with them to discuss the costs and considerations could go a long way.

This is particularly important when you take into account that the average debt for a tertiary student in Australia is estimated at $17,500, with the average time taken to repay that debt about 8.7 years1.

How much does it cost to study?

Costs can vary greatly depending on where, what and for how long your children study.

To give you an indication of the range of costs for different types of qualifications, check out the following Australian Government estimates, but note that bachelor and master degree estimates don’t take into account high-value courses, such as medical and veterinary studies2.

Qualification Cost per year
Certificates I to IV, Diploma and Advanced Diploma  $4,000 to $22,000
Undergraduate Bachelor Degree $15,000 to $33,000
Postgraduate Masters Degree  $20,000 to $37,000

How students manage financially

Research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics3 shows:

  • the main source of income for 61% of tertiary education students is a wage or salary

  • for 15% of students, the main source of income is a Government allowance

  • around 5% receive no income, and support themselves through their own savings or via assistance from their parents or a partner.

Student assistance options

There are various financial assistance options that you can explore with your children.

  1. Australia’s Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) consists of five loan types to help with the cost of fees. The right loan will depend on eligibility and where your children want to study4.

  2. Government allowances provide financial support for eligible students, trainees and apprentices. They include, but aren’t limited to, Youth Allowance, Austudy and Abstudy.

  3. Australian scholarships are offered by some universities, colleges, governments, and private organisations and benefactors.

  4. The Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) offers fully-paid graduate degrees in addition to providing a full-time salary, while students complete military and leadership training5.

  5. Work-related study might enable your children to claim some of their expenses as tax deductions and it’s also worth them investigating employer incentives like paid study leave.

Ways to support your children

There are plenty of financial and non-financial ways to support your children. Here are some ideas:

  1. Help them to set up a workable budget and find a bank account that suits their needs. 

  2. Contribute toward education fees or added costs, such as textbooks, stationery and transport.

  3. Let them live with you for free or minimal board in exchange for doing various jobs around the house and garden. This may be helpful if their study is intensive and they don’t have time for a part-time job.

  4. Provide advice, encouragement and examples of how you balance financial responsibilities.

  5. If they’re studying subjects you’re familiar with, offer to help by sharing your knowledge. 

Other things to talk about

If your children are wondering whether higher education really pays, it’s worth mentioning to them that research shows the majority of graduates work as professionals and managers, which are roles that typically attract higher incomes6

Networking opportunities, new friends, added job opportunities, and the discipline and routine further education can provide may also be invaluable to your children’s aspirations and future career.

If your children decide not to study straight after school, there’s always the option of studying later on.


Source: AMP 7 February 2017

1 Higher Education Loan Program – a quick guide
6 AMP.NATSEM income and wealth report