VET Fee Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) follows on from the Higher Education Contributions Scheme (HECS) scheme which was introduced in 1989 by the Hawke Labor Government. It was developed by economist and lecturer at the Australian National University, Bruce Chapman and championed by Education Minister John Dawkins.
Under original HECS a $1,800 fee was charged to all students with the Commonwealth paying the balance. This replaced the up front $250 administration charge that had ended Australia’s brief experiment with free education in 1987.
A 2013 Productivity Commission study of income trends in Australia has found average incomes have risen from about $800 to $1100, that is 38% since 1989. On a comparative basis that would see students now taking on a HECs debt of $2484.
However according to the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, Australians had an average HECS-HELP debt of $16,000 last financial year, a 789% rise in debt for University education compared to a 38% rise in income.