What does it cost to go to uni?

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What does it cost to go to uni?


Tuesday 26 July 2016

The cost of going to university is something that we often hear discussed. Student loans, escalating fees, students living on baked beans and two minute noodles, no doubt you’ve heard these mentioned more than once of late. But rarely is an actual amount mentioned.

There are many costs to consider when going to Uni – tuition fees, study-related costs such as textbooks and equipment, and living costs like renting and bills all come into the mix when weighing up your decision.

So how can you find out how much it will cost to go to university? Here are some of the major costs to consider:

1. Tuition fees

Tuition fees are what you pay for each course (subjects are called courses at uni) and are determined by your citizenship status, choice of study area and level of study such as undergraduate (which includes Bachelor’s degrees) or postgraduate (such as a Master’s degree).

If you’re studying an undergraduate program and you are an Australian or New Zealand citizen, permanent resident or hold a humanitarian visa you may be eligible for a Commonwealth Supported Place which means that your fees are reduced. Enabling programs like the Tertiary Preparation Pathway (TPP) are free.

The table below provides a general guide for the costs for one year of full time study in 2016 and shows how this changes depending on what type of courses you study. These amounts are indexed annually by the Federal Government. 

Student Contribution Band 2016 per EFTSL 2016 per course *
Band 1 Humanities, Behavioural Science, Social Studies, Clinical Psychology, Foreign Languages, Visual and Performing Arts A$6,256 A$782
Band 1 A Education and Nursing ** A$6,256 A$782
Band 2 Mathematics, Statistics, Computing, Built Environment, Health, Science, Engineering, Surveying, Agriculture A$8,917 A$1,114
Band 3 Law, Accounting, Administration, Economics, Commerce A$10,440 A$1,305

† EFTSL represents the Equivalent Full-time Student Load or one full-time year.

* Represents the student contribution per course based on a 12 unit course. Unit weighting for courses is shown in study plans on individual program pages.

** Students who commenced but did not complete their program as a Commonwealth supported student prior to 2010 may apply for transitional arrangements. If eligible for transitional arrangements students will be charged $625 (12 unit course fee) for any Band 1A courses in which they enrol.

If you were to study teaching, for example, and you enrolled in four teaching subjects in the first semester and four teaching subjects in the second semester for 2016, your fees would be $6,256. If you changed one of your subjects to a science subject and another to a mathematics subject your fees would be:

(6x$782) + (2x$1,114) = $6,920

If need to know your expected costs in more detail follow these simple steps:

  1. Go to the undergraduate programs page and select a degree program
  2. Go to the ‘plan your study’ tab and click on the ‘select study plan’
  3. Decide what semester and year is most relevant to you and note the course codes down
  4. Print off Commonwealth supported student contributions by course (PDF 383KB) ^
  5. Add up figures to determine approximate program cost
2. Student Services and Amenities Fee

To study at university students need to pay a Student Services and Amenities Fee. The amount is determined by the number of subjects you’re enrolled in. In 2016 the maximum amount was $290 and this is indexed annually by the Federal Government.

These fees are used for improving student services and facilities and all students are invited to comment on the types of services and facilities that will be funded through this fee each year. Some of the initiatives include cheaper food options for students (the great meals that students can buy for $5.50!), employment and career services, orientation and social activities, printing subsidies and study skills services.

3. Other costs to consider 

In addition to your fees, you’ll need things like textbooks, a computer, memory stick and stationery. You might need other course-related equipment such as lab coats or uniforms. One of the great things about being a student is the discount you can get on a lot of stuff so make sure you shop around and ask before you buy. There are also lots of second-hand textbooks available and a huge range of free or heavily discounted software.

Remember that you’ll probably have regular expenses like printing costs, parking or public transport and some degree programs (e.g. education, health) may require memberships, certifications, licences and/or immunisations. Check your program for details.

Paying it all back

You might not need to pay your fees upfront. If you’re eligible you can choose to defer your tuition fees and this is where your debt will start to accumulate as a HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP loan with the Australian government. Once you earn more than the threshold amount, you’ll start to make compulsory repayments by paying a higher rate of tax. Find out more about how this all works here.

You may also be eligible for SA-HELP which can be used to defer your Student Services and Amenities Fee

Can you make it work?

Paying for life as a student can sometimes feel like a balancing act. Many students find themselves wondering “do I buy that and eat baked beans for the rest of the week or not?” There are some simple budget templates and online apps available to give you some guidance on how you might make your dollars go further.

Don’t forget that you might be eligible for government assistance. Find out more about government assistance here.


Scholarships and bursaries aren’t just for high achievers. USC offers scholarships with lots of different criteria including sporting achievement, community activity and volunteering, fund raising or taking on a leadership role. There are also scholarships available for students who are struggling financially.

The best thing about USC Scholarships is that you only need to fill out one application form to be considered for all the scholarships you are eligible for. Here’s how to apply.

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