HONGKONG students hit by the collapse of a private business college in Australia have been thrown a financial lifeline by the federal Education Minister Mr Kim Beazley. About 100 students lost thousands of dollars each in pre-paid fees when the Australian Business College (ABC) in Perth, Western Australia, went into provisional liquidation in January. The college's new owners offered students a 35 per cent fees discount if they signed up at the re-named Alexander College. Now Mr Beazley has decided the Government will pay the remainder of the fees in the form of tuition credits for about 200 overseas ABC students who have re-enrolled. The figure includes about 70 of the Hongkong contingent, at a cost of $11 million. Students still in Perth will be told of the arrangements today, while those in Hongkong will be contacted by letter. Mr Beazley said: ''This is a one-off arrangement. ABC was the largest private provider of business courses in Western Australia with a large body of overseas students. ''The assistance takes account of the very limited opportunities for the students to be placed in other Perth colleges. ''I have also initiated action to develop, with the industry, ways of increasing protection for students' funds. ''This includes strengthening Commonwealth legislation and establishing an industry-run Fidelity Fund to guarantee students' pre-paid fees.'' The manager of the Australian Education Centre in Hongkong, Mrs Jandy Godfrey, hailed the news as ''wonderful''. ''We are delighted, particularly at the planned strengthening of the legislation,'' she said. ''If there is any risk of a private college closing, we will be able to transfer students to another college.'' Mr Beazley acknowledged that the bail-out was largely a business decision aimed at protecting Australia's overseas reputation. The private college education industry is worth an estimated $5.5 billion a year.