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Planning to finance your study

Even financial advisers need a bit of money advice sometimes. So, when it comes to financing a return to study, we have a few helpful pointers.

At some point in our working lives many of us think about postgraduate study. Whatever the motivation – to upskill, re-ignite passion, change career, or comply with regulations – an increasing number of Australians are taking the plunge.

One of the first questions people ask themselves when contemplating further study is: Can I afford this? Perhaps the mortgage is using a lot of your financial bandwidth. Maybe school fees are on your mind. Or you’re in a financial sweet spot and want to keep it that way.

Investing in postgraduate study

Mark Olynyk, Program Director in Financial Planning at Deakin University, says it’s important to view postgraduate study for what it is – a long-term investment.

“As with all sound investments, cost of course is an issue that needs to be managed. Costs will include not only tuition fees but also the cost of textbooks, service fees, travel costs and the opportunity cost of the time otherwise spent in running your business or perhaps spending more time with the family.  But there are a range of financing options available that are often less complicated than expected,” Olynyk says.

“It will be critical to determine how the costs can best be managed and how they’re likely to impact upon your personal circumstances. There are a few key factors you’ll need to consider, such as current living expenses, family income, job security, family situation, lifestyle expectations, and the ability to access savings. The ability to take into account government support and loans should also be considered.”

Olynyk states that whilst costs are obviously an important factor, it is important to weigh the costs of study and education against the future earnings potential. “The costs of study need to be compared to the costs of not studying and making a decision to either remain within your existing position, where the potential for income increases is limited, or not meeting compliance with regulations and needing to exit the industry that you enjoy and are good at.  Both have the potential to significantly impact on your future income.”

Tips to Make Your Study Affordable

There are a range of way to reduce or neutralise the costs of a postgraduate degree, including:

  • Prior learning credit (RPL): both formal and informal learning may help you reduce costs. Check if you can get any RPL credit at Deakin, as it will reduce the number of units you need to complete, thereby cutting overall costs.
  • Scholarships: many prospective students don’t investigate the range of scholarships available – don’t be one of them! If you’ve previously studied with Deakin you may also be eligible for Deakin’s Alumni Bursary.
  • Professional development: employers appreciate staff who demonstrate a keenness to learn more and take on challenges. You should approach your supervisor about financial or in-kind support for your postgraduate study.
  • Claim it for tax purposes: depending on your circumstances, you may be able to claim education costs on tax. Other expenses associated with study, such as books, internet and childcare, may also be claimable. Check with the Australian Tax Office or a tax agent to determine the ways you can bring down your tax.
  • Don’t pay up-front: FEE HELP is like the HECS scheme – the Federal Government covers your tuition fees as a loan, which you pay back through tax once you reach a taxable income threshold. To check eligibility see the Federal Government’s Study Assist website. If you aren’t able to defer tuition fees using FEE HELP, you can also opt to pay your fees in instalments.

Feeling confused or apprehensive about the cost of postgraduate study? Don’t be afraid to ask for advice! Deakin offers help with budgets and support referral, and the Financial Assistance office provides interest-free loans for study expenses.


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