A great place to start

How to calculate your student debt

Shaun McGowan By Shaun McGowan
They say that the only certain things in life are death and taxes. But as the years go on, student loans seem to be a certainty for most of us. And as the debts mount up, it can seem like you’re in for a lifetime of repayments.

So let’s sit down and calculate that student debt. Because the best way to tackle a problem is to face it head on.

The ‘when’ and ‘how’ of what you’ll have to repay will depend on the type of loan you get. So let’s look first at the different types of student loans that are currently available to you.

Types of student loan in Australia


HECS - HELP Loan Banner

HECS-HELP

HECS-HELP is a loan and student discount. You have a choice to make at the outset. You can either pay $500 or more towards your course fees upfront and get a discount through HECS-HELP – or HECS-HELP can pay your course fees for you.

The Australian Government pays these fees directly to the institution, so don’t expect to see any money passing through your account.

The good news about HECS-HELP is that you don’t have to worry about repaying it right away.

In fact, you’ll only have to start making repayments on your loan once your income meets or exceeds a set threshold. This threshold tends to get changed quite often, but it’s currently set at $51,957 for the 2018-2019 tax year and $45,881 for the 2019-2020 tax year.

You can check how much HECS-HELP you need to repay by entering your annual income and ticking the HELP checkbox on our pay calculator.


HECS - HELP Threshold

When your income reaches this point, your employer will start deducting loan repayments from your pay packet.

By the way, it’s your responsibility to make sure you inform your employer you have a HECS-HELP debt when you complete your TFN declaration, so that they can make sure your withholdings are correct.

I’ll come back to that in a minute.

Repaying your HECS-HELP debt through your pay is a slow, steady way to clear it. But if you’re keen to pay it off more quickly, you can do so without any penalty. Simply make extra voluntary repayments whenever you can.

How to check your HECS-HELP balance

Wondering how much you owe on your HECS-HELP loan? There are two ways to find out:


  1. Contact the ATO on 13 28 61 and provide them with your tax file number (TFN). From there, they can tell you your account balance.

  2. Visit the myGov website, link your account to the ATO website, and view your balance online.


Student Loan Schemes Banner

SSL and ABSTUDY SSL

These student loan schemes, funded by the Department of Human Services, began on 1 January 2016. They replace the Student Start-up Scholarship.

The Student Start-up Loan (SSL) and ABSTUDY Student Start-up Loan are voluntary loans available to eligible students who receive Youth Allowance, ABSTUDY Living Allowance or Austudy.


Australia's Trade Support Loan Banner

TSL

Under the Trade Support Loans (TSL) program, the Australian Apprenticeships Centres and the Department of Education and Training offers loans up to $20,420 to eligible Australian apprentices.

Repaying your student debt

As I mentioned, one of the great things about student debt in Australia is that you only start making repayments when you can afford to. What’s more, your repayment schedule will be based on your income, so the less you earn, the less you’ll have to fork out in repayments each month.

As your income increases, so too will the percentage of your salary you’ll have to pay towards your student debt.

Whenever you start a new job, you must let your employer know about your student debt. You can do this through the tax declaration form that you’ll complete before your first day of work.

This will tell your employer how much to withhold from your pay packet based on your salary.

But there’s one important thing to note – your employer can only base your withholdings on your income from the job you have with them. If you have multiple jobs, you are responsible for making sure you’re making the appropriate payments, either as withholdings through each employer, or in voluntary payments.

If it turns out you haven’t paid enough through your withholdings, you’ll owe the extra at the end of the financial year.


Check out the following chart to get an idea of how to calculate your student debt for 2018-2019.


Repayment income (RI*) Repayment rate
Below $51,957 Nil
$51,957 – $57,729 2.0%
$57,730 – $64,306 4.0%
$64,307 – $70,881 4.5%
$70,882 – $74,607 5.0%
$74,608 – $80,197 5.5%
$80,198 – $86,855 6.0%
$86,856 – $91,425 6.5%
$91,426 – $100,613 7.0%
$100,614 – $107,213 7.5%
$107,214 and above 8.0%

In 2019-2020 the HELP, SSL and TSL tax tables will be renamed ‘Study and training support loans tax tables’ (STSL). They will incorporate HELP, VSL, SFSS, SSL, ABSTUDY SSL and TSL. See the following table for the new STSL rates.


from to %
45881 52973 1
52974 56151 2
56152 59521 2.5
59522 63092 3
63093 66877 3.5
66878 70890 4
70891 75144 4.5
75145 79652 5
79653 84432 5.5
84433 89498 6
89499 94868 6.5
94869 100560 7
100561 106593 7.5
106594 112989 8
112990 119769 8.5
119770 126955 9
126956 134572 9.5
134573 10

It’s relatively simple to use the chart to figure out how much you’ll pay annually.

But if you want a more detailed breakdown by pay packet, or if you want to figure out how much you’ll have left in your pay packet with after student loan and tax withholdings, use this easy income tax calculator.

Conclusion

No one likes repaying student loans, but thankfully you won’t have to start worrying about it until your income reaches a reasonable level.

And although it can hurt to have repayments coming out of your pay packet, this is an easy way to make sure you’re making timely payments (and to avoid the temptation of money in your account).

Remember, you always have the option of making extra payments to repay your debt early. This will make it easier for you to get other loans (like a mortgage) should you need them in future, since you’ll be able to prove you’re financially responsible, and you won’t have existing debt hanging over you.

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