Source: Tertiary Education Commission
Learners may have been adversely affected by COVID-19 either by not being able to participate fully in their studies or training, or due to illness or financial hardship. This has resulted in some learners withdrawing from their study or training or not completing courses.
Tertiary Education Organisations (TEOs) should inform Fees Free eligible learners who used their entitlement for study or training in 2020 that there is a process to reinstate Fees Free entitlement in certain circumstances.
Some or all of learners’ Fees Free entitlement may be reinstated if they are an eligible learner and:
they withdrew from study or training due to the impact of COVID-19; or
their study or training was adversely affected due to the impact of COVID-19
Where TEOs have reported the withdrawal in their ‘Fees Free All Enrolments and Costs’ reports, we (the TEC) have reinstated the entitlement of learners who withdrew from 23 March to 30 June 2020, without learners needing to appeal.
For withdrawals outside of the period from 23 March to 30 June 2020, or where learners didn’t withdraw, but their studies were adversely affected, learners can appeal their entitlement use. Learners can appeal by entering their NSN on the Fees Free website homepage and completing the COVID -19 Entitlement Appeals form on the results page.
To support this process and your learners, we ask that TEOs continue to report all Fees Free eligible learners via the ‘Fees Free All Enrolments and Costs’ report, including those who have been affected by COVID-19. Furthermore, we request that Transitional ITOs report all trainees status’ accurately as either active, grace, on hold or withdrawn.
If a learner withdraws outside of the normal withdrawal period due to COVID-19 (either within or outside of the 23 March – 30 June COVID-19 withdrawal period), will the tertiary education organisation (TEO) have to refund the learner or return the money to TEC?
For 2020, there are no recoveries from TEOs to TEC for Fees Free. Therefore, where a learner withdraws due to COVID-19, the TEO will retain the funding.
If a learner appeals their fees-free entitlement being used on study or training that was affected by COVID-19, will their TEO have to refund the learner or return the money to TEC?
As previously mentioned, for 2020, there are no recoveries from TEOs to TEC for Fees Free. Therefore, where we reinstate a learners’ fees-free entitlement due to COVID-19, the TEO will retain the funding.
We have trainees who could not complete their block course during lockdown and this now falls outside the 24 month Fees Free timeframe.
Transitional ITOs can apply to the TEC to have the cost of the block course paid under Fees Free, if the block course was moved as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic/lockdown.
You will need to provide sufficient information and evidence to prove that the course was originally scheduled to be held during lockdown.
I withdrew from my study because of COVID-19. How can I get my fees-free entitlement reinstated?
If you withdrew between 23 March and 30 June 2020 you do not need to do anything because your fees-free entitlement should have been automatically reinstated. However, if you withdrew outside of this timeframe you are able to appeal the use of your fees-free entitlement and provide evidence to the TEC as to how the COVID-19 pandemic/lockdown affected your ability to complete your course.
My study was impacted due to COVID-19, how do I appeal my entitlement use?
To appeal your fees-free entitlement being used on study that was impacted by COVID-19, please visit the Fees Free website. Enter your NSN on the home page and complete the COVID -19 Entitlement Appeals form on the results page. You will need to provide an explanation and evidence to demonstrate the impact COVID-19 has had on your study or training.
Will I be notified when my entitlement is reinstated?
You will not be notified however we will notify your TEO through the monthly reporting. If you have appealed to the TEC we will notify you of the outcome of your appeal. If you are unsure whether your fees-free entitlement has been reinstated, please contact your TEO in the first instance. If you are not currently enrolled with a TEO, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how much of your fees-free entitlement (dollars) you have used to date.
I’ve used my fees-free entitlement already but this was for study in an industry that has been impacted by COVID-19. Can my fees-free entitlement be reset or can I access Fees Free to study something else?
Unfortunately we cannot reinstate fees-free entitlement for study completed prior to 2020. However, there is funding available for free trades training in specific vocational areas. See information on our website about the Targeted Training and Apprenticeships Fund.