End of first-year Fees Free policy

End of first-year Fees Free policy

Last updated 4 July 2024
Last updated 4 July 2024

The Government has announced that Fees Free for the first year of study and training will finish at the end of 2024. It will be replaced by a final-year Fees Free scheme.

Learners who have already used Fees Free in their first year of study or training won’t be able to access Fees Free under the new final-year policy. However, from now until the end of 2025, first-year Fees Free will operate under ‘first-year transition rules’.

First-year Fees Free transition rules

Learners who used Fees Free in 2024 may be able to continue to use their remaining first-year Fees Free entitlement in 2025 if they:

  • are continuing in the same programme of study in 2025, and
  • have Fees Free entitlement remaining.

They will be able to access their entitlement until the end of 2025, or until they reach their 24-month (for work-based learning), one EFTS (120 credits), or $12,000 cap, whichever occurs first.

Learners with remaining entitlement will not be able to access first-year Fees Free in the future if they:

  • did not use Fees Free in 2024, or
  • used Fees Free in 2024 but are not continuing in the same programme of study in 2025.

Learners who still need to declare their eligibility for 2024

Learners who studied or trained in 2024 and met the criteria for first-year Fees Free can still declare their eligibility. They have 12 calendar months from the start date of their first course or programme to declare their eligibility to receive Fees Free for their 2024 study or training – and any continuation of the programme into 2025 that falls within the learners remaining entitlement.

Provider-based courses that continue across years

First-year Fees Free will still cover the course fees within the learner’s remaining entitlement where courses start in 2024 and end in 2025. Please report the fees for these learners as you normally would in your 2024 Fees Free All Enrolments and Costs templates.

Work-based programmes that continue beyond 2025

Under the first-year transition rules, work-based learners enrolled in 2024 that continue with the same programme into 2025 will have their fees for that programme covered only up to the end of 2025 (and within the learner’s remaining 24-month and $12,000 maximum entitlement). For reporting, please state the fees incurred by the learner up to 31 December 2025. You may charge the learner for fees incurred after this date.

Reporting in 2025

You will continue to receive Fees Free reporting templates in 2025 to collect fee information for learners that are covered under the first-year transition rules. We will confirm the allocation of Fees Free funding for these learners via usual reporting.

The Fees Free eligibility file for 2025 will include all learners that meet the criteria for receiving remaining first-year entitlement in 2025 and the qualifications that may be covered, should the learners continue those qualifications into 2025.

Course enrolments that are not covered under the transition rules do not need to be reported in your Fees Free returns and may be charged fees.

2025 Fees Free indicative allocations

All tertiary education organisations will receive a zero-dollar Fees Free indicative allocation for 2025. We’ll then monitor your reported delivery for learners entitled to Fees Free under the first-year transition rules. Monthly payments will be made to you in 2025 on behalf of these learners, as required.

Keep up to date

We will update tertiary education organisations on any reporting and process changes via the TEC website and Fees Free Focus.

Sign up to the Fees Free Focus newsletter for policy, process, and reporting updates

Frequently asked questions

Do I need to change anything in my Fees Free reports for 2024 enrolments?

Please continue to fill in your 2024 Fees Free returns as usual. We will continue to allocate funding for eligible learners who enrol in 2024 under the first-year Fees Free scheme. Where a provider-based course starts in 2024 and finishes in 2025 we’ll cover the full fees (within the learners remaining entitlement), so you should still report the full fees and EFTS for enrolments in your returns.

How do I report learners who are covered by the first-year Fees Free transition rules?

You’ll continue to receive monthly Fees Free reporting templates in 2025, for collecting fee information for learners covered by the first-year transition rules. You should report the 2025 enrolments for these learners as you normally would, and we’ll calculate the payment we need to make to you on behalf of the learners. You’ll receive confirmation of these allocations via the usual Work-based Remittance or Multiple Providers and Cap Limit reports.

How will I know which learners are covered by the first-year Fees Free transition rules?

We’ll provide you with a list of your learners who used Fees Free in 2024 and have remaining entitlement, along with the qualification code(s) the learner was enrolled in, in 2024.

You only need to report learners who are on this list and are enrolled in the listed qualification. We’ll update your learners list each month.

Some TEOs find it easier to include all learners who are enrolled with them in their Fees Free returns. If you prefer to do this, that’s okay too. During validation we’ll exclude learners who are not entitled to Fees Free under the transition rules, and let you know which learners we’re allocating funding for.

What do I need to tell my learners? Do you have communications I can send to my learners?

Please direct your learners to the Fees Free website for information: FeesFree.govt.nz

Clearly tell your 2024 learners to check their Fees Free eligibility sooner rather than later, to ensure eligible learners don’t miss out on their first-year entitlement in 2024.

To help you provide the most up-to-date information for your learners we have prepared copy for you to use on your website.

Update your website copy

I have some Fees Free reporting errors in previous years. Can I still fix them and get a wash-up adjustment?

Yes! Please check your reports for previous years and make sure you’ve included all eligible learners and fixed up any errors as soon as possible.

From 31 December 2025, we will no longer accept changes to first-year Fees Free eligibility, or entitlement for 2018 to 2025. It’s important that we clean data up as much as possible before 31 December 2025, so that no learner misses out on their first-year entitlement. TEOs’ last opportunity to finalise first-year Fees Free reporting will be through the 2025 wash-up process, in early 2026.

Under the new final-year scheme, learners who have studied or trained using first-year Fees Free will not be able to access Fees Free for their final year.