What you need to know before signing up for a course
Every year, NSW Fair Trading receives complaints from students about fees, refunds, misleading information and course quality for training and education. Training may cost tens of thousands of dollars with no refund available if you make a bad choice or change your mind during the course.
Don’t sign up for a training course until you research the qualifications, providers, costs and payment options that best suit you and your career plans. Australia has a national system of accrediting vocational education and training (VET) qualifications and courses. Only registered training organisations can deliver nationally recognised qualifications and accredited courses.
Before you commit to qualifications or courses, do these essential checks:
Check the training provider is registered
For vocational education and training, check that the training provider can offer the course in NSW and make sure the training provider is a registered training organisation (RTO). Visit: training.gov.au/Search/SearchOrganisation
Check the training provider is approved to offer VET Student Loans
To apply for a VET Student Loan to pay for the course, check the training provider is approved to offer loans. For details, go to the list of approved VET providers at www.education.gov.au Also check the requirements for loan fees, interest and paying back the loan. Check the <VET Student Loans information booklet> for details.
To find the course best suited to you, to compare prices, fees, content and length of the courses, and job opportunities, go to the <Smart and Skilled website>.
Be wary if approached to enrol in a course
These tips will help you make informed decisions and avoid marketing pressure tactics:
- Never sign up 'on the spot' (when someone stops you in a shopping centre or on the street, emails you, calls you up or knocks on your door). The exception is if you have done your research and are certain the course is right for you.
- Don’t feel pressured by ‘limited time only’ prices. If they want your business they will often do you a good deal later.
- Don’t be fooled by claims that a course is ‘free’ or ‘government funded. Training is not usually free. If you provide your tax file number you could end up thousands of dollars in debt via a VET Student Loan, and will have to repay the loan when your income reaches a certain level.
- Don’t be fooled by deals, such as ‘free’ or bonus incentives like cash, laptops or tablets, which are built into your course fees or loan. Training providers and marketers are banned from offering students incentives to sign up to courses funded by VET Student Loans.
- If you see this happening, lodge a complaint via the <VET Student Loans compliance complaints page> [www.education.gov.au]
- Don't get scammed. Only give out your personal details, including your tax file number, if you are confident you want to enrol. Be sure the person is an authorised representative of an approved training provider. Ask for identification.
- Never provide the training provider with your usernames or passwords from government agencies, such as the Department of Human Services, Centrelink or myGov.
- If you were approached and signed up on the spot, don’t pay anything until the end of the cooling-off period (10 business days).
- Try contacting other training providers who may offer the same qualification for a cheaper price, and may still offer VET student loans.
Make sure the course meets your learning, career and financial needs
Before you enter into a contract, discuss your learning and career needs with the training provider or marketer:
- Ask how the course will meet your needs and career goals, and discuss any personal circumstances that might affect your ability to study.
- Ask about the total cost, including additional costs for textbooks or other course materials, and the method of payment.
- Ask about any protections offered by the RTO for amounts you pay to them, particularly if you are paying more than $1,500 upfront.
- Ask for cooling-off periods, census dates for cancelling VET Student Loans, cancellation and refund terms and conditions to be provided in writing.
- Always get copies of the paperwork you sign and the contact details of the marketer and the training provider so that you can ask further questions or cancel the course.
Read the training contract carefully
Before you sign a training contract, read it carefully and check your cooling-off rights, which include the cancellation and refund conditions, in case you change your mind. Ask for the student handbook, which should have information about the training organisation’s grievance and appeals policy or formal complaint process. If there is anything you don't understand, ask the marketer and the training provider. Also, ask to speak to someone who has done the course.
Cancelling VET Student Loans
If you signed up to a VET student loan to pay for the course, you can cancel your enrolment before the census date to avoid a fee. In special circumstances beyond your control such as significant medical issues, you can cancel after the census date.
How to cancel your course and your VET Student Loan after the census date:
- You must first apply to your training provider.
- If your application is refused, apply to them again in writing requesting they review their decision.
- If you get no response within 45 days, or if they uphold their decision to refuse cancelling the VET Student Loan, contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman on 1300 362 072 or fill out their online form at www.ombudsman.gov.au
- If your training provider is no longer trading, contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman or you can apply to the Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training on 1300 566 046.
- If you believe a marketer or recruiter has misled you into signing up for a VET Student Loan, and the census date has passed, your should still write to your training provider to outline what happened and any outcome you are seeking. Your training provider may voluntarily cancel your enrolment and VET Student Loan debt.
Visit the <Study Assist website> or call 1800 020 108 for more information on the VET Student Loans program.
Check if you are in debt
Contact the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on 13 28 61 if you’ve given your tax file number to a training provider and are worried you might have an unexpected VET Student Loan debt. The ATO will ask for your tax file number before disclosing any personal information. The ATO manages VET Student Loan debts, which are repaid through the tax system.
- If you, or someone you know, has an issue or complaint regarding your VET FEE-HELP or VET Student Loans training provider or loan, contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman on 1300 362 072.
- If you have a problem with your VET provider about the delivery of training, assessment, marketing and student information, or receiving proof of national qualifications obtained, try to resolve it with the training provider first. If you are unsuccessful, lodge a complaint with the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) at www.asqa.gov.au or call 1300 701 801. ASQA will use information provided in complaints to regulate VET providers but does not provide a dispute resolution or advocacy service.
- If you want a refund of the course or enrolment fees, or need help with your consumer rights under the Australian Consumer Law, including misleading and deceptive conduct, contact Fair Trading on 13 32 20 or <lodge a complaint online>
- If you have other questions and concerns about your VET provider or course, contact the National Training Complaints Hotline on 13 38 73 or by following the email complaint process for the Hotline at www.education.gov.au/NTCH
Tips for overseas students
- If you are an overseas student you must check if the organisation you want to study with is registered to deliver training to overseas students, and is listed on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) at cricos.education.gov.au
- If your education provider has not delivered the course you are enrolled in, you may be entitled to a full refund. Contact the Education Services for Overseas Student (ESOS) Helpline on 1300 615 262 or complete the online enquiry form from the contacts page at www.internationaleducation.gov.au
- You cannot transfer to another education provider before completing the first six months of your principal course, without a release letter from your provider. Check your written agreement to see what your provider's policy says about transferring to another provider as well as fees and refunds.
- If you are dissatisfied with a decision or action taken by your provider, you can lodge an internal complaint or appeal with them directly.
- If you are attending a self-accrediting university, for example the University of Sydney, you should contact the International Students Office of your university for any concerns or enquiries.
- If this does not resolve the problem with your private school, college or university, the Overseas Students Ombudsman may be able to help. Contact the Ombudsman on 1300 362 072 or at ombudsman.gov.au
- For any questions about your visa, contact the Department of Immigration and Border Protection on 13 18 81 or visit www.border.gov.au