Fact Sheet Detailed Q&As
Collecting and administering the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF)
About the SSAF
On 11 October 2011, the Australian Parliament passed legislation allowing universities and other higher education providers to charge a fee for student services and amenities of a non‐academic nature. The fee may be spent by higher education providers on items such as sporting and recreational activities, employment and career advice, child care, financial advice and food services. The Minister for Education has issued guidelines setting out special requirements for providers with Commonwealth supported students. These are called the Student Services, Amenities, Representation and Advocacy Guidelines. The allocation of SSAF funds is determined in consultation with students and student representative bodies and guided by the SSAF Committee. All SSAF funded projects must be considered by the Committee and are subject to Executive approval.
What is the SSAF?
The Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) is a fee that is charged to students for student services and amenities of a non‐ academic nature, such as sporting and recreational activities, employment and career advice, child care, financial advice and food services. The University of New England manages the SSAF in accordance with relevant guidelines and legislative requirements. These requirements are administered by the Australian Government Department of Education and include how much the fee can be set at each year.
Who can be charged SSAF?
Any person who is enrolled or seeking to enrol with a higher education provider can be charged a student services and amenities fee. However, only those students who meet the eligibility criteria can access Government assistance and defer the fee through SA-HELP.
Can international students be charged a fee?
Yes. There is nothing in the Education Services for Overseas Students Act (ESOS Act) that prohibits a higher education provider from charging international students who are enrolled, or seeking to enrol with the provider, a student services and amenities fee under section 19‐37(5) of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA).
How much can providers charge in 2019?
Higher education providers will be able to charge students a fee of up to $303 per student in 2019. This maximum will be indexed each year. Students studying on a part-time basis cannot be charged more than 75% of the maximum amount that students studying on a full time basis are charged.
At UNE, students are charged SSAF on a per-unit basis so the final amount charged reflects the amount of study undertaken over a year.
Is a student services and amenities fee required to be a whole dollar amount, or can it include cents?
A student services and amenities fee is not required to be a whole dollar amount.
Are all students charged the same amount?
No. Different amounts may be charged for particular categories of students, including a zero amount. Categories of students can be determined on any basis, including: mode of attendance (i.e. on and off‐campus), type of course (i.e. undergraduate and postgraduate) or equity status (i.e. low SES and Indigenous).
Is GST included in the fee?
The Australian Tax Office (ATO) provides advice on whether GST is payable on student services and amenities fees. Generally, the fee is GST‐free as long as the higher education provider imposes the fee to make facilities available to the general student population. However, if a higher education provider imposes the fee in order to provide a student with a taxable supply, it will be taxable. Section 2.5.20 of the Administration Guidelines notes “Any amount of a student services and amenities fee determined by a provider must be a GST inclusive amount, to the extent that any GST is payable by the person required to pay the fee.”
Are students required to pay the fee even if they do not intend to use any of the services and amenities?
Yes. The fee is payable regardless of whether the student intends to use any of the service and amenities provided.
Can the fee be used for capital works?
Yes. Funds can be used for the construction or improvement of facilities associated with the delivery of a service or amenity for students, as defined by expenditure categories.
When do students need to pay the fee?
Providers determine a date payable for the student services and amenities fee. This date cannot be earlier than the last day on which a student is able to enrol in a course of study with the provider. This ensures eligible students are able to access a SA‐HELP loan. Providers may set an earlier administrative date for payment of the fee and submission of SA-HELP assistance forms. The requirement is in place to ensure students are able to access SA‐HELP as a student must be enrolled in a course of study to be eligible for SA‐HELP.
At UNE, students must pay SSAF or submit a SA-HELP form by the Census Date for each Trimester. Find more information about due dates for each teaching period on the Principal Dates page.
What if students can't afford to pay the fee upfront?
Eligible students who are unable to pay the fee upfront can request assistance from the Commonwealth and defer the fee through the element of the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) known as SA‐ HELP. Eligible students may choose to pay some of the fee upfront and obtain a SA‐HELP loan for the remainder or obtain a loan for the full amount of the fee. The amount of the loan will be added to the student’s accumulated HELP debt. An eligible student will be able to take out a SA‐HELP loan even if they do not wish to take out any other HELP loan.
Who is eligible for SA-Help?
To be eligible for a SA-HELP loan, students must be an Australian citizen, hold a permanent humanitarian visa, or be a New Zealand Special Category Visa holder who meets the long-term residency requirements and be enrolled in a course of study or bridging course for overseas-trained professionals. Further information can also be found online at StudyAssist.
When do students need to lodge their request for SA-Help assistance form?
Students who wish to access Government assistance to defer a student services and amenities fee through SA‐HELP will need to complete, sign and return the SA‐HELP assistance form to their provider on or before the payment due date for the relevant teaching period. To apply for SA‐HELP assistance, please complete and submit the form provided in the myUNE student portal under myEnrol.
Can a request for SA-Help assistance form apply to fees that are due before the form is submitted?
No. If a student submits a Request for SA‐HELP assistance form, it only applies to fees payable on or after the day the form is submitted. A student must complete, sign and give to their provider a Request for SA‐HELP assistance form on or before the payment due date.
Do students need to re-apply for SA-Help each year?
A student is only required to apply for SA‐HELP assistance once for a course of study at a provider. If a student changes courses or changes providers, the student will need to re‐apply for SA‐HELP.
Does a student's SA-Help debt appear as a separate amount on their Commonwealth Assistance Notice (CAN)?
Yes. A student’s CAN sets out the amount of the student services and amenities fee, the day the fee was payable and the amount of the SA‐HELP debt in relation to that fee.
Does a student's SA-Help debt appear as a separate amount on their annual HELP information statement from the ATO?
No. A student’s SA‐HELP debt becomes part of their accumulated HELP debt which appears as a single amount on their annual HELP information statement.
If a student is enrolled in more than one course of study will they be charged a student services fee for each course of study?
This depends on whether a student is enrolled in multiple courses of study at the same time with the same provider or whether the student is enrolled with different providers. A student can only be charged a services and amenities fee by a provider to the maximum in that year, even if enrolled in multiple courses with that provider. However, if a student is enrolled in units of study with more than one provider in the same calendar year, they may be charged a services and amenities fee by each provider. For example, a student who is enrolled in a course of study with one provider (the home provider) but undertaking a unit of study with another provider (the host provider) as a part of that course may be charged a fee by each provider. If a student is enrolled in two courses of study with two providers then they are eligible to receive SA‐HELP for each fee. However, if the student is enrolled in a course of study with one provider but undertaking units of study with another provider on a cross‐institutional or non‐award basis then they are only eligible to receive SA‐HELP for the provider with which they are enrolled in a course of study. At UNE, cross‐institutional students are exempt from paying the SSAF.
If a student enrols at one higher education provider but then moves to another can the student be required to pay another student services and amenities fee?
Yes. There is nothing in the Act or the Guidelines made under section 238‐10 of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 that prohibits a provider from charging each student who enrols with the provider a student services and amenities fee. The fee applies regardless of whether that person has paid a fee to another provider for the same period. An eligible student can access SA‐HELP loans for as many fees as the student incurs. There is no limit on the number of SA‐HELP loans for eligible students.
Can a student obtain a refund of the fee?
Universities develop their own policies in relation to the refund of student services and amenities fees. Providers are not permitted to remit SA‐HELP debts incurred by students. Universities advise students that if they receive a refund due to special circumstances, and it is after the date payable for the SA‐HELP loan, the student will have recorded a debt with the ATO.
Spending revenue from the fee
What can SSAF be used for?
The SSAF can only be spent on the provision of services and amenities that are identified under legislation, these include: providing food or drink to students on a campus of the higher education provider;
- supporting a sporting or other recreational activity by students;
- supporting the administration of a club most of whose members are students;
- caring for children of students;
- providing legal services to students;
- promoting the health or welfare of students;
- helping students secure accommodation;
- helping students obtain employment or advice on careers;
- helping students with their financial affairs;
- helping students obtain insurance against personal accidents;
- supporting debating by students;
- providing libraries and reading rooms (other than those provided for academic purposes) for students;
- supporting an artistic activity by students;
- supporting the production and dissemination to students of media whose content is provided by students;
- helping students develop skills for study, by means other than undertaking courses of study in which they are enrolled;
- advising on matters arising under the higher education provider’s rules (however described);
- advocating students’ interests in matters arising under the higher education provider’s rules (however described);
- giving students information to help them in their orientation; and
- helping meet the specific needs of overseas students relating to their welfare, accommodation and employment.
Providers can choose to deliver the services and amenities themselves or contract a third party to deliver the services and amenities on the providers’ behalf. A detailed list of allowable expenditure and examples are available on the SSAF website.
Can fee revenue be used to support a political party?
No. Providers must not allow fee revenue to be used to support political parties, or to support the election of a person to a Commonwealth or State or Territory Parliament or local Government body.
Will students have a say in how fee revenue is spent?
Yes. Under the Student Services, Amenities, Representation and Advocacy Guidelines (Representation Guidelines), universities are required to have a formal process of consultation with democratically elected student representatives and representatives from major student organisations at the university regarding the specific uses of proceeds from any compulsory student services and amenities fee. These consultations must include:
- publishing identified priorities for proposed fee expenditure and allowing opportunities to comment on those priorities by students and student associations and organisations; and
- meeting with democratically elected student representatives and representatives from major student organisations at the university to consider the priorities for use of fee revenue.
How does the Government monitor expenditure of fee revenue?
Providers are required to certify, on an annual basis, that they charged student services and amenities fees strictly in accordance with the Higher Education Support Act 2003 and the Administration Guidelines made under the Act. Providers also need to confirm that the revenue from the fee was spent strictly in accordance with the Act and the Representation Guidelines made under the Act, and only on allowable services and amenities.
What if a provider breaches a provision of the Higher Education Support Act 2003?
The Department of Education will investigate any allegations of non‐ compliance. There are penalties that apply to universities for breaches of the requirements.
Do providers need to publish a schedule of their student services and amenities fee?
Yes. Providers will need to publish a schedule of fees by 1 April if they are charging a fee in the second half of the year and 1 October if they are charging a fee in the first half of the following year.
Can a university carry forward unspent SSAF revenue to forward years?
Yes. Provided that requisite student consultation has taken place and that SSAF revenue is only used for allowable items under the Higher Education Support Act 2003, decisions on the expenditure of SSAF revenue, including the timing of expenditure, are at the discretion of the higher education provider.
What is the process for making a query or complaint?
Any queries or general concerns regarding management of the SSAF can be directed to the UNE SSAF Program Manager by email at: email@example.com. If you wish to make a complaint, please go to the Student Grievance Unit (SGU). The SGU is an independent investigative unit which provides assistance with and the resolution of any student related issues, concerns or complaints submitted by students, staff, residential schools, associated businesses and any entity that undertakes operations on behalf of the University.
How do I have input to the allocation of SSAF?
The best place to start is the UNE SSAF website. This will provide links to relevant legislation, guidelines and supporting material.
I am managing a SSAF funded project, where do I find help?
There are certain responsibilities and obligations you will have if you’re leading a SSAF funded project, including adhering to university procurement policies, procedures and ensuring the successful achievement of project outcomes. Further information is available in the Fact Sheet – for SSAF Project Leaders.
Source: Australian Government Department of Education, accessed on 15 March 2019.