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How to afford a return to university

How to afford a return to university

Want to give your career a boost with some further study at uni? We can help out with planning and budgeting for this.

An increasing desire to turn a passion into a career, as well as rapidly evolving technology innovations, are just a couple of reasons why professionals are choosing to rethink their career aspirations. As a result, more and more Australians are heading back to university to upskill, retrain or reignite a stalled career.

If you’re looking for a way into a new career opportunity or out of a job rut but not sure you can afford it, there are ways you can make it happen.

Costing it out

For many people, funding is the main reason not to pursue their postgraduate dreams.

Accumulating some sort of study debt is likely. Costing a course out is crucial, and can also make things feel a little less overwhelming.

Budget for things like:

  • Core and elective courses
  • Application processing fee (not all unis charge this)
  • Study materials
  • Transport to and from university.

Overall costs can vary wildly from one semester to another depending on the course you take. NetBank customers can set up a study savings goal where you set aside money (on a regular or ad-hoc basis) in a dedicated account to get you closer to your dream.

Our savings calculator can also help out with this.

And if you intend on going part-time or quitting your job altogether, you’ll need to factor in loss of earnings and bonus payments as well as working out a plan to keep topping up your superannuation.

On the upside, you’ll have a student uni card that can entitle you to discounts and certain perks.

Paying for it

Study now, pay later can be one option for returning students, especially if you’re eligible for a government loan; another is to pay for study on a 12-month interest-free payment plan. But many postgraduate students choose to pay costs upfront out of their savings or by getting a personal loan.

If you decide to go down this path, timing can be key. It’s worth finding out exactly when you need to pay for things, especially if it’s close to the end of the tax year. You may be able to claim money back when you lodge your tax return, so keep all your receipts.

Employer support

Juggling study, work and life commitments will inevitably prove challenging at some point.

Encouragingly, more and more employers are becoming supportive of employees flexing their brains to update their credentials. Chat to your employer about your plans – they may be able to offer:

  • Paid or unpaid study leave
  • Flexible working hours and locations
  • Financial support (part funding).

Government support

Government subsidies and financial assistance schemes for returning to uni are out there – it’s just a matter of reaching out and finding them.

  • Austudy: Financial help for full-time students 25 years and over
  • Higher Education Loan Schemes (HELP)
  • Scholarships and Awards including:
    - Australian Postgraduate Awards (APA) administered by individual universities with their own application and selection process
    - International Postgraduate Research Scholarships (IPRS)
    Indigenous scholarships

It’s also worth asking the university if they offer grants or student subsidies.

Tax breaks

When it comes to tax, keep receipts and document everything you’ve paid for and intend to claim back. Carefully time when you pay for each core and elective study units each semester.

Some things you may be able to claim include:

How we can help

If heading back to university feels like the right thing for you to do right now, get in touch with us to arrange a financial health check or a meeting with a financial planner. We’ll do everything we can to bring your study aspirations in reach.


This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as financial product advice. Taxation considerations are general and based on present taxation laws and may be subject to change. You should seek independent, professional tax advice before making any decision based on this information. Commonwealth Bank is also not a registered tax (financial) adviser under the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 and you should seek tax advice from a registered tax agent or a registered tax (financial) adviser if you intend to rely on this information to satisfy the liabilities or obligations or claim entitlements that arise, or could arise, under a taxation law.