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Aviation students to have access to larger VET loan limit from 2020

written by australianaviation.com.au | April 1, 2019

Students are getting access to higher loan limits from 2020.
Students are getting access to higher loan limits from 2020.

The federal government plans to increase the amount those studying aviation can borrow under the vocational education and training (VET) student loans scheme.

From January 2020, the lifetime loan limit is being increased from $104,440 to $150,000, the government announced on Monday.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the increased limit would help students complete the multiple aviation courses required to gain their commercial pilot’s licence and help “meet the aviation needs of tomorrow”.

“We need more people in aviation, particularly women, and are investing to help attract the skills we need for the future,” McCormack said in a statement.

“We’ve listened to the concerns from industry that the current combined lifetime loan limit of $104,440 doesn’t adequately cover the cost of training for the licences and ratings issued by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).


“That’s why the cap will be lifted to the same level as courses for medicine, dentistry and veterinary science.”

The VET student loans scheme can be used by those studying aviation courses at an approved provider, McCormack and Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education Senator Michaelia Cash said in a joint statement.

Further, statement noted the increased limit was one of the recommendations from a skills study conducted by an expert industry panel in 2018.

“The higher limit benefits tertiary students who will undertake or are currently undertaking an aviation course at diploma or advanced diploma level, and deferring their tuition fees through VSL,” the statement said.

“This will apply for training that leads to outcomes such as acquiring a CASA commercial pilot licence, instrument and multi-engine ratings.

An aviation skills and training report written by a panel of experts chaired by The Australian Aviation Associations Forum and published in July 2018 found Australia was experiencing a severe shortage of aviation personnel and urgent action was needed if the country was to avoid major disruptions.

The report said Australia did not have an aviation training system capable of meeting the requirements of the industry now, or in the years ahead.

It also noted the VET HELP loan limit – as it was then known – was not sufficient to provide student pilots with all of the licences and ratings required.

“It is recommended that increasing the FEE HELP Loan limit for aviation to $150,000 would permit more students to be able to complete the Flight Instructor Rating as well as either the agriculture rating for students wanting to stay in General Aviation or the Multi Crew Cooperation course for those wanting to continue to the airlines,” the report said.

The panel of experts comprised representatives from Aircraft Structural Contractors, Aviation Australia, Basair Aviation College, QantasLink, the Regional Aviation Association of Australia, the Regional Express Flight Training Academy and Virgin Australia.

The Australian Aviation Associations Forum (TAAAF) chairman Jeff Boyd welcomed the increase in lifetime loan limit.

“This increase will now ensure that pilots will be able to complete their training with not only bare minimum qualifications, but relevant and employable qualifications thereby helping to ease Australia’s pilot shortage,” Boyd said in the ministers’ statement.

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Comments (12)

  • James


    $150K is a large chunk of change. I’d hate to be paying that back on a drivers wage. Maybe a better plan would be for the government to make some changes to the amount of rubbish young ones have to go through to get into the industry. Lower the actual cost of becoming a pilot instead of making people pay back more money. I feel really bad for kids trying to get into this racquet.

  • David


    Agree 100% James. What about subsidising certain ratings, or bringing down the overall cost by having industry standard training for Australian Pilots. The government are subsidising Aviation Maintenance Engineering now, so why not for Flight Training? It really feels like everything is geared to help overseas students, not our own.

  • Steve


    While I don’t know all the details involved in these loans, I did hear there is something like a 20% surcharge on top. Is that correct? If so, that’s criminal.

    I also heard the approved training providers charge students top dollar per flying hour compared to the average flying school rates per hour. If true, that needs to be stamped out as it’s blatantly taking advantage of the students utilising the government loans.

    • Knightthrone


      That is so true. The add-on is 25%, not just 20%. Also, as soon as you talk to schools about dipping into VET-FEE, the cost of the exact same training jumps bu almost 80%. Essentially, a particular training that would otherwise cost close to $23,000, ends up being a debt to the student of $45,000 after you count the total training cost on VET-FEE and the government’s share of 25%! This is absolutely ridiculous!

  • Alex


    Yep. It’s a 20% loan fee and VET approved schools charge close to a 1/3 as much because they can. If the loan cap is going to be increased then great, but if the government let’s schools charge significantly more purely because they’re VET approved that’s just needlessly racking up loan debt.

  • Exhausted airline captain


    I worked my ass off funding myself through a career in aviation with absolutely no external help what so ever. Now I’ve made it to the top and being taxed like you wouldn’t believe. Meanwhile the government is so happily splashing my tax dollars around like it’s a free for all. Cmon it’s a slap in the face. Maybe it’s time to leave this greedy country and take my expertise elsewhere. Thanks Australia.

    • James


      Yeah maybe it is. But you’ll wanna come home eventually like the rest of them.

  • Another James


    The majority of local flying students (post-2000) have had their flying training and living expenses funded by i) the bank of mum and dad in the form of primary place of residence and/or investment property equity withdrawals [with no requirement for the child to pay back the cash] ii) inheritances from asset rich grandparents and great grandparents. With the Sydney and Melbourne property markets undergoing a ‘slow-melt’ correction over the past 1.5 to 2 years the flow of ‘free-money’ nonchalantly pumped into $500-$700 per hour flying training has or is beginning to shrink. Enter the Commonwealth Government, granting naive millenials access to vocational education debt levels that are really only justified in predictably ‘bankable’ occupations such as medicine/surgery and Dentistry. The next tier of relatively lucrative occupations such as optometry, law, engineering, veterinary science, advanced and applied sciences, accounting, surveying etc only require one to take on a higher education debt in the $40,000 to $100,000 range. Surely anyone self-funding flying training for career purposes in this day and age, paying $500+/hr from their post-tax income, competing directly with the rich kids of leisure or the deeply indebted has rocks in their head?

  • TD


    Another April fools day joke ?????? Is the aim to keep smaller businesses in aviation alive and further screw the hard working hard studying students who have done the hard yards and slept on hangar floors to save coin?

  • Matt


    As a first year student, I welcome the increase as it’s naive to think that you aren’t going to fail a flight or two. Add this to the extortionate cost of flight training in general and I welcome the increase. Right now I just want to get flying and achieve my goals and not have to worry about whether or not I will be able to complete my course due to current financial circumstances. Sucks they lowered the income limit to $45000 before having to pay back but I just want to become a pilot and if paying a massive debt is what it takes then so be it.

  • Eddie


    Does anybody know whether or not this legislation has passed Parliament and will go ahead?

  • Alex


    Aviation is a serious business, I wouldn’t trust TAFE to teach someone how to wash a plane let alone fly one, they aren’t graduating industry ready students in other industries as it is. Throwing money at it will create the ACME Looney Tunes school of Aviation, money grab, pink bats disaster all over again. One opportunistic provider is already in trouble for not giving students what they paid for and has had several serious accidents before the investigation for the first one was even completed (while they turned over $millions a year, complained about having to ground the fleet and meet additional criteria, to hell with the people they sent to the hospital, the publics faith and the nails ATC and emergency services have chewed down to the knuckles picking up their slack while they showboat in the media about their new shiny look how good I am business), it’s so far beyond unprofessional I can see it ending in charges being laid when someone dies, they’ve made plenty of enemies and the students wear it. Uni only gets you a frozen qualification, you still have to pay to fly on top of it, the need for currency means skills are time sensitive and employers care about hours over degrees, not only is it a rort it’s raising the bar for entry level even higher by loading it up with arse about extra work and cost when it’s already out of reach, it’s exhausting students and their funds before they even get in the air. The government need to stop pretending they know anything, they need to loan the average budget to get to industry entry level across the entire spectrum of CASA recognized training institutions (not just their corrupt kickback friends and opportunists who don’t have a solid track record in the industry) and big industry who expect to profit need to meet students half way. There needs to be an entry criteria for courses starting with a medical, English and aptitude rather than taking people’s money then watching them fail when they don’t meet the basics. Allow students to pick their instructors, their ground school, shop for a good deal, managing their education will teach them valuable skills for aviation where you need to be self reliant and problem solve, it’s setting them up to fail if they think all they have to do is show up and follow a cookie cutter course and they’ll have a job at the end. Students who don’t prep for flying properly so don’t make good use of their flying time or who don’t prepare by getting their English to a strong enough standard need to be discouraged from progressing through the course till they are prepared, otherwise they’ll be looking at a mountain of debt and a backlog of work they need to catch up on to get certified, the attitude of not properly prepping students and just taking peoples money needs to stop, it’s not just expensive it teaches dangerous habits where students think they can hash things out when a problem arises instead of preparing for the flight. CASA and employers needs to be more realistic about their cut offs and big employers need to invest in training instead of expecting they can pilfer staff from regional areas. Pilots are essential but the industry is being treated like it’s a rich kids hobby.

    The government should be investing in aviation innovation, aircraft that cost less to build and fly, better performance materials and better fuels, it will trickle down into marine, automotive and manufacturing and boost our economy. If they put Australia out in front in the research, development and manufacturing departments it would mean more jobs, an export market and more accessible remote areas which will encourage people to make the move out of the cites instead of government bleeding out remote areas then bitching no one wants to live there.

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