Fees Free – what tertiary education organisations need to know

Fees Free – what tertiary education organisations need to know

Last updated 20 July 2018
Last updated 07/20/2018

Eligible learners can now access either their first year of tertiary study, or their first two years of industry-based training, fees free. Fees Free

The Tertiary Education Commission (the TEC) is responsible for the implementation of the Government’s Fees Free tertiary education initiative. To do that effectively, we are working with tertiary education providers and industry training organisations (ITOs).

Eligible learners
Eligible qualifications
What's covered
How will TEOs be funded for fees-free
What the TEOs need to do

Eligible learners

Prospective learners who want to confirm their eligibility for free fees and find out how to apply for fees-free study in 2018, should go to feesfree.govt.nz. That website includes details of eligibility criteria for fees-free education and training, as well as a set of FAQs to help learners. There is also a call centre to provide support for learners: 0800 687 775.

Learners are encouraged to check their eligibility before enrolling.

Learner eligibility information for providers and ITOs can be found in the relevant sections below.

Eligible qualifications

To be eligible for fees-free funding, the course or industry training programme must:

  • start in 2018
  • be funded by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC)
  • be recognised by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA)
  • at Level 3 or above on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NSQF), and
  • for industry training only, be at least 120 credits.

What’s covered

The Government’s intention is for the initiative to cover one year’s study or two years industry training, which is usually 1 EFTS/120 credits. 1 EFTS is approximately 120 credits or points. You can find out more information about EFTS on StudyLink’s website:

Some people study more or less than 1 EFTS in a year. The Government will fund fees up to $12,000 for study in a year. This limit is expected to affect around 1 percent of first-time students.

The fees-free initiative for provider-based education will pay:

  • tuition fees and associated mandatory fees, and
  • compulsory student services fees.

This aligns fees-free coverage with current fee regulation and the coverage of the fees component of student loans. Learners may be asked to pay other optional and occasional fees such as students’ association and club memberships, some course materials, and late fees.

Fee regulation continues to apply to fees-free courses: in 2018, providers can increase fees by no more than two percent compared to 2017.

For industry training, the Fees Free policy will cover all fees paid by eligible learners and their employers for training and assessment, including fees paid to industry training organisations or directly to training and assessment providers. The policy will not cover other fees and charges paid by eligible learners and their employers.

How will TEOs be funded for Fees Free?

TEC is making bulk payments to TEOs to cover the estimated cost of fees-free enrolments for the 2018 year. 

More details on payments to ITOs and providers is detailed below.

What TEOs need to do

Encourage learners to check their eligibility

TEOs should encourage learners to check their eligibility at feesfree.govt.nz before enrolling. Learners will find out if they are eligible for fees-free study, not eligible for fees-free study or of unknown eligibility.

Some learners will need to complete a statutory declaration before we will recognise them as being eligible for fees-free study. We recommend you encourage students to do this in a timely way so they are not disadvantaged.

Determine what to invoice learners

To ensure that you invoice learners correctly, you need to be validating your data regularly against the fees-free change file, and the file of eligible NSNs.

Both of these files can be found in the notices section of the Workspace 2 homepage. Both are updated daily at 10am.

It is recommended that TEOs use these files to reconcile data once a week. At an absolute minimum, TEOs should do it twice for each learner – once when they enrol and again a few days before their course begins.  

Other options for confirming eligibility

Eligibility can also be checked in two other ways:

Send a list of your student NSNs to feesfreedata@tec.govt.nz for checking (use a .csv file with a header row).

The following working day we will update and return the file to the TEO advising which NSNs are eligible for fees-free study and which are either not eligible or ‘unknown’.

Alternatively, for a small number of NSNs, look them up individually at feesfree.govt.nz.

Note. If the outcome is ‘unknown’, please contact the learner and encourage them to complete a statutory declaration process via feesfree.govt.nz.

How to check an NSN for Fees Free eligibility (PDF, 615 Kb) (updated March 2018)

What happens if learners have an unknown eligibility?

Learners who return an unknown eligibility result from feesfree.govt.nz will need to complete the statutory declaration process.

The statutory declaration process involves the learner returning a witnessed declaration to the TEC for verification, attesting to their eligibility for fees-free study. The TEC will update the NSN file advising whether the NSNs are eligible for fees-free study or not eligible for fees-free study.

This process may take up to two business days.

Instructions for completing the statutory declaration process are at feesfree.govt.nz.

What about students with loans?

If students are eligible for fees-free study and are enrolled in a fees-free eligible course or programme, they don't need to do anything further.

If students are not eligible, or fees are more than $12,000 and they need their fees paid from their loan, they can let StudyLink know by changing their ‘Pay fees’ details in MyStudyLink.

Read more about how fees-free is applied to high cost courses such as approved aviation programmes for pilot training. (PDF, 612 Kb)

Payments to tertiary education organisations

How will TEOs be paid?

On behalf of learners, the TEC is making bulk payments on defined dates throughout 2018 to cover the estimated cost of fees-free learner enrolments for the 2018 year policy. These bulk payments, which in most cases will be paid three months in advance, will streamline the process for TEOs.

For most providers, payments will be based on each organisation’s fees data in STEO, their historic delivery volumes, 2018 funding allocation, and their StudyLink fees payment profile.

Using these sources to calculate payment amounts means:

  • most provider payments will be in advance of when they may have expected payments from StudyLink on behalf of learners, and
  • over or underpayments should be minimised.

For ITOs, payments are based on proposed fees for 2018 for the estimated number of learners and apprentices who are eligible in 2018. For most ITOs, payments will be made quarterly.

Where necessary, the TEC has worked with a TEO to agree a bespoke solution for their organisation. This might be, for instance, where a new provider does not have sufficient historic data for the TEC to complete a forecast calculation.

When will payments be made?

For the majority of TEOs the first payment was made by the TEC on 3 January 2018.

Each TEO has received a payment schedule with their Fees Payment Agreement Letter, sent December 2017.

What if a TEO disagrees with the amount the TEC intends paying?

If a TEO disagrees with their allocation amount and/or timing of payments, they can request an evidence-based review by us.

What about over and under payments?

Bulk payments will be reconciled with actual delivery data during the year and adjustments made to future payments if needed.

The TEC will confirm with providers any amount owing for eligible learner fees. This wash-up process will be similar to the current wash-up for under or over delivery.

The future of Fees Free

The Government plans to roll out a full programme of three years' fees-free tertiary education by 2024.

The 2018 fees-free system is an interim one, and we can expect there will be changes for 2019. To inform those changes officials are working closely with TEOs to assess the experiences of learners and TEOs during this first year of Fees Free.

Later in 2018, after initial data is analysed in June, Cabinet is expected to consider short-term changes to the Fees Free policy to improve delivery, and set a plan for medium-term changes for 2019.  

Where can TEOs get more information?

For specific queries, TEOs should contact their Investment Manager, or the TEC Sector helpdesk.

Learners are encouraged to use the feesfree.govt.nz website or call the dedicated helpline, 0800 687 775, if they can’t find what they need on the website.

Employers

As a result of the new policy, employers will not be required to pay the fees for eligible learners. This will be done by the Crown.

Employers may need to help learners find out if they are eligible for Fees Free and assist them through the process, which in some cases will include getting a statutory declaration signed. For information on how learners can find out if they are eligible, go to feesfree.govt.nz, or call the dedicated helpline, 0800 687 775. 

Questions and Answers

 

Eligibility

Q. What are the rules for carrying over fees free entitlement from 2018 to future years?

A. If a learner is studying at an institute of technology, polytechnic, private training establishment, university or wānanga in 2018, and:

• they are eligible to receive fees free, and
• their course or programme is eligible for fees free

but:
• they did not complete a full-time course of study, which is generally 120 credits based on EFTS (equivalent full-time student) guidelines, and
• their course costs did not reach the maximum of $12,000

they may have some fees free entitlement left over that they can use in the future.

The nature of this future entitlement is yet to be confirmed but may include an EFTS and dollar component. As soon as this is confirmed, information will be provided on Fees Free website. This will tell learners how they can check their entitlement.

Q. Who is eligible for fees-free provider-based study? 

A. To be eligible for fees-free study with a university, institute of technology or polytechnic (ITP), wānanga or private training establishment (PTE), learners must:

1.  be a New Zealand citizen, or

2.  be ordinarily resident in New Zealand, and either:

  • have been living in New Zealand for at least 3 years  while holding a residence class visa, or
  • be a refugee or protected person, or
  • be sponsored into New Zealand by someone in their family who, at the time they were sponsored, was a refugee or protected person, and

3.  not be enrolled in a school at the start date of the course or programme, and 

4. not have previously undertaken more than half a year of equivalent full-time tertiary education (0.5 EFTS or 60 credits), at level 3 or above on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF), including tertiary education at an equivalent level undertaken in any other country. This excludes any tertiary education undertaken while enrolled in a secondary school.

They must also be studying an eligible qualification, course or programme.

Q. Who is eligible for fees-free industry training in 2018?

A. To be eligible for fees-free industry training, learners must:

  1. be legally employed in New Zealand
  2. not be currently enrolled in school at the start date of the programme, and 
  3. not have previously undertaken more than half a year of equivalent full-time tertiary education (0.5 EFTS or 60 credits) at level 3 or above on the NZQF, including tertiary education at an equivalent level in any other country. This excludes any tertiary education undertaken while enrolled in a secondary school.

They must also enrol in an eligible industry training programme

Q. What courses or programmes are eligible for fees-free?

A. A course (as part of an eligible qualification) or programme must start in 2018 and must be:

  • funded by the Tertiary Education Commission (the TEC)
  • recognised by either the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) or Universities New Zealand
  • at Level 3 or above on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF), and
  • for industry training only, at least 120 credits.

Q. Are there any age requirements?

A. No, there are no age requirements or restrictions.

Q. Why is the industry training requirement set at 120 credits?

A. The 120 credit minimum is to help ensure training programmes have career benefits for learners, and to avoid learners using up their fees-free entitlement on short programmes required (and usually paid for) by employers.

Q. Why can’t lower level courses be covered by fees-free?

A. The Fees Free policy focuses eligibility on quality-assured programmes that are considered to be a good investment for New Zealand and for all learners. It aligns fees-free eligibility with student support and government tuition subsidies, and limits fees-free to courses with regulated fees.

Foundation programmes (at NZQF levels 1-2) are excluded because provider-based level 1-2 study is already fees-free, and learners shouldn’t have to use their fees-free entitlement on courses and programmes intended to prepare for tertiary education at level 3 and above.

Q. Why do programmes and courses have to be recognised and funded to be available for fees-free? 

A. Fees Free was designed to help New Zealanders have access to good quality tertiary education that provides skills for life and work. When a course or programme is both recognised by NZQA or Universities New Zealand, and funded by the TEC it means the course is of a good educational standard.

Q. Are private training establishment (PTE) courses eligible for fees-free?

A. Yes, as long as the learner meets the eligibility criteria (including residency and previous study criteria) and their programme of study meets the eligibility requirements.

Q. Will part-time learners be eligible for fees-free?

A. Learners eligible for fees-free tertiary education can study either part-time or full-time. For example, they could access some fees-free study in 2018 and may be able to carry over some remaining entitlement into future years. The nature of this future entitlement is yet to be confirmed but may include an EFTS (equivalent full-time student) and/or dollar component. You can find out more about EFTS on StudyLink’s website. As soon as confirmed, information will be provided on Fees Free website.

Q. Can learners pay for some fees themselves and use their  fees-free in another year?

A. No, learners cannot ‘bank’ their fees-free entitlement for future use. This means if they start studying or training in 2018 and are eligible for fees-free, they cannot opt to pay for some of their fees themselves and 'bank' some of their fees-free study to use later.

However, learners can study part-time and spread their fees-free entitlement over multiple years. See the FAQ: “Will part-time learners be eligible for fees-free?”

Q. Will learners studying from overseas be eligible?

A. Learners can study extramurally in New Zealand or from overseas (as long as they are eligible including meeting residency criteria and treated as a domestic student), or on campus in New Zealand. The course or programme must also be recognised by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority or Universities New Zealand, and be funded through the Tertiary Education Commission.

People enrolled at a tertiary education organisation not recognised in New Zealand are not eligible for fees-free.

Q. Will a learner still be entitled to fees-free in the future if they withdraw from their course or programme in 2018?

A. Provider-based study

If learners withdraw by their provider’s withdrawal date and are entitled to a full refund, then they are likely to be eligible for fees-free next year (provided they and their course or programme still meet all the eligibility criteria).

If they withdraw after the withdrawal date, then their ongoing fees-free entitlement will depend on the EFTS and cost of fees of their study they were enrolled in.

A. Industry-based training and apprenticeships

If an industry trainee or apprentice withdraws from their programme in 2018, they may still be entitled to fees-free in the future. Any ongoing fees-free entitlement depends on the amount of training they completed before they withdrew.

For more information, see the FAQ “What are the rules around withdrawals and tuition fee refunds if a learner withdraws from their course?”

Q. What are the rules around withdrawals and tuition fee refunds if a learner withdraws from their course?

A. Note the following answer applies to provider-based study only.

Withdrawal and refund conditions remain the same whether a learner is eligible for fees-free and/or accessing fees-free support or not.

If a learner withdraws before your organisation’s withdrawal date:

  • they are entitled to receive a full refund of fees and course costs, and
  • they will retain their full fees-free entitlement (fees-free support is capped at $12,000 [including GST] per student in 2018).

If a learner withdraws after your organisation’s withdrawal date:

  • they are not entitled to receive a full refund of fees and course costs. This may differ if the student is withdrawing due to exceptional circumstances (you will need to apply your organisation’s withdrawal policy in this case), and
  • any EFTS/credits they undertake will be counted as prior study and may affect their future eligibility (see point below) and the amount of fees-free support they can access in the future.
  • To be eligible for fees-free tertiary education, a learner must “not have previously undertaken more than half a year of equivalent full-time tertiary education (0.5 EFTS or 60 credits) at level 3 or above on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF), including tertiary education at an equivalent level undertaken in any other country, but excluding any tertiary education undertaken while enrolled in a school.”

In both cases, learners who don’t use a full 1 EFTS in 2018 can use the balance later. It is likely that carryover into 2019 will take into account the EFTS a student has undertaken and the dollar amount they have consumed.

For more information about withdrawals please refer to the Student Achievement Component (SAC) level 3 and above Conditions.

Residency

Q. What should learners do if they are not sure of their residency status?

A. If a learner needs help with determining their residency status, advise them to contact Immigration New Zealand through its contact centre on 0508 558 855.

Note that Australian citizens and Australian permanent residents are automatically considered to have a residence class visa.

To be eligible for Fees Free, people with a residence class visa must be ordinarily resident and have lived in New Zealand for at least three years, or be a refugee or protected person, or be sponsored into New Zealand by someone in their family who, at the time they were sponsored, was a refugee or protected person.

Q. Why are there residency requirements for learners?

A. The policy aligns fees-free eligibility for provider-based tertiary education with other learner support, such as student loans and allowances. It helps ensure that fees-free support is directed to those who have established an enduring commitment to New Zealand.

Residents (including Australian citizens and permanent residents) who haven’t lived in New Zealand for three years or more while holding a residence class visa are not eligible for fees-free tertiary education. They may still receive tuition subsidies as domestic learners.

Fees-free eligibility for industry training is aligned with eligibility for other industry training funding. Anyone working legally in New Zealand can access industry training if their employer is willing to invest in and support this.

Q. If a learner meets the three years residency criteria partway through the year, what does this mean for their fees-free funding?

A. If a learner attains three years of residency in New Zealand partway through a course or programme, they are not entitled to receive fees-free support for that course or programme. However, they may be entitled to receive fees-free support for any future course(s) or programme they undertake providing they meet the other eligibility criteria.

Q. What should I be advising learners who meet the three year residency criteria partway through the year?

A. Learners will need to be advised that any tertiary study undertaken prior to them becoming eligible will count as prior study (for eligibility purposes).

Counting all prior study, if the learner still meets all the eligibility criteria, they will need to complete and submit a statutory declaration to declare they are eligible for fees-free.

Q. Does study already undertaken count towards the prior study eligibility criteria?

A. Any tertiary education undertaken prior to the learner becoming eligible will count as prior study (for eligibility purposes). Learners must have not undertaken more than half a year of equivalent full-time tertiary education (0.5 EFTS or 60 credits) at level 3 or above on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF), including tertiary education at an equivalent level undertaken in any other country. This excludes any tertiary education undertaken while enrolled in a school.

See the learner eligibility criteria for provider-based study.

Timing

Q. What period is covered for provider-based study?

A. Fees Free for 2018 covers courses and programmes beginning in 2018. Learners can begin their study in 2018 and complete their study later. For example, learners could access fees-free study in 2018 and may be able to carry over some remaining entitlement into future years. The nature of this future entitlement is yet to be confirmed but may include an EFTS (equivalent full-time student) and/or dollar component. You can find out more about EFTS on StudyLink’s website. As soon as confirmed, information will be provided on FeesFree website.

Q. What period is covered by fees-free for industry training?

A. It covers eligible programmes for training starting in 2018 for up to two years. Learners can begin training in 2018 and be eligible for fees-free in 2019 as well.

Q. Why is industry training covered for two years and only one year for provider-based study?

A. The Government’s intent was to pay fees for the equivalent of a full year of study (120 credits). Most industry training programmes are less than 75 credits per year and it is difficult for a learner in industry training to undertake the equivalent of a full-time study load in one year. The Government wants to ensure greater equity between industry training and provider-based study.

Q. When will two and three years of fees-free tertiary education be available?

A. The Government has said it is committed to rolling out a full programme of three years of fees-free tertiary education by 2024.

Q. Will there be any changes to the fees-free process for 2019?

A. Bringing in fees-free tertiary education for 2018 is a major shift in New Zealand tertiary education policy. Officials will work closely with providers and industry training organisations to monitor how the fees-free system works in practice in 2018.

We acknowledge that the fees-free tertiary education system in place for 2018 is an interim one. It is fully expected that there will be changes for 2019 based on analysis of learner and provider / industry training organisation experience.

Scholarships

Q. What should learners do if they have a scholarship for 2018?

A. Scholarship providers are responsible for administering their own scholarships. TEOs can advise students who have been awarded a scholarship for 2018, to contact the awarding body to discuss their situation.

Q. My organisation administers a scholarship for first-year study, what can I do to adapt to the Fees Free policy?

A. The Government recognises that your organisation is responsible for administering its own scholarships and that you have probably already awarded scholarships for 2018.

If you have the flexibility to allow students to use their scholarships for future tuition costs or course-related costs (other than those covered by the Fees Free policy), or in the second year of study, that will enable 2018 recipients to benefit from both the scholarship and Fees Free policy.

While scholarships could be converted to cash or used to cover living costs, this may affect a student’s entitlement to a student allowance from StudyLink or income support from Work and Income. This would reduce the overall benefit to the student of the scholarship. Applying scholarships to future tuition fees or course-related costs (other than those covered by the Fees Free policy) should be the first choice as these payments are not classed as income.

We suggest you also consider how you adapt scholarships for 2019 to reflect fees-free. 

 

If you need more information about Fees Free, or have questions, please email Sector Helpdesk.

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