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STUDYING IN GERMANY

German students to get higher grants from winter 2022

The German Bundestag has voted to increase the Bafög allowance and loosen the criteria for applying for student grants.

Students at Heidelberg University sit in a lecture hall.
Students at Heidelberg University sit in a lecture hall. Photo: picture alliance / Uwe Anspach/dpa | Uwe Anspach

On Thursday, the Bundestag voted through a 5.75 percent increase in Bafög – Germany’s grant and loan system for students – alongside an increase in both the housing and the childcare allowance for students.

From the start of the winter semester, the basic Bafög entitlement will increase to €452 per month and the housing cost supplement for students who don’t live with their parents will increase from €325 to €360.

The maximum support rate including the housing cost supplement will thus rise from €861 to €934 – an increase of more than eight percent.

Bafög recipients who don’t live with their parents will also receive a one-off subsidy of €230 to help with rising energy bills. According to official statistics, about three quarters of Bafög recipients live away from home. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Can foreigners apply for student finance in Germany?

As well as raising grants, the government is also widening the eligibility criteria so that more students and trainees will be eligible for full Bafög payments.

Previously, grants for students whose married parents earned more than €2,000 a month were reduced to factor in their parent’s income. From October, however, payments will only be reduced for people whose parents earn a combined income of €2,400 or more. 

Students under the age of 30 will also be able to claim the full amount of Bafög if they have less than €15,000 in assets, while students over the age of 30 can hold assets of up to €45,000. 

“The previous support system excluded too many people,” said Federal Education Minister Betting Stark-Watzinger (FDP). “We are reversing this trend.”

There are also plans for an online application system to make it easier to apply for support in future.

‘A drop in the ocean’

The traffic-light coalition had originally planned a Bafög increase of five percent but later revised this to six percent to compensate for the rising cost of living.

However, student representatives and the German Student Union still say the current increase is too low. 

“Unfortunately, this is only a drop in the ocean,” said Kristof Becker, Federal Youth Secretary of the DGB Youth. “In view of the current dramatic inflation rate, you don’t have to be a maths genius to see that the increase is not enough.”

Speaking in parliament ahead of the vote, the Left Party politician Nicole Gohlke said the changes were “purely cosmetic” and accused the government of being out of touch.

The American Memorial Library in Berlin

The American Memorial Library in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

“Inflation will eat up the Bafög increase entirely, there’s nothing left over,” he said. 

However, the government pointed out that an additional €2 billion would be made available for Bafög reforms in the coming years. The current law is only the first step, they argued. 

The bill to raise Bafög and increase the number of eligible students was passed with the combined votes of the three traffic-light coalition parties and the Left Party. The opposition CDU/CSU parties and the far-right AfD voted against the reform.

“Education is an opportunity, but not a state-guaranteed human right for everyone,” AfD education policy spokesperson Götz Frömming said.

READ ALSO: Essential German words to know as a student in Germany

The new Bafög rates and rules: 

Bafög grants: The basic Bafög rate for students will be raised from €427 to €452 per month. Those who no longer live with their parents can also receive €360 instead of the previous €325 for rent. Students who have their own health and care insurance and no longer live with their parents will receive higher supplements.

Allowances: In order to increase the number of Bafög recipients, €2,415 of monthly parental income will be exempt from grant calculations. Previously, just €2,000 was exempt. Other allowances will also be increased, for example for married people and students with children.

Protected assets: Those under 30 can hold up to €15,000 in assets, and those over 30 can hold up to €45,000 in assets, without this being counted towards Bafög. Previously, all assets over €8,200 were counted.

Part-time jobs: Students should be able to earn €330 in a part-time job without this affecting the Bafög grant, up from €290. 

Childcare allowance: Students with children will be able to receive a childcare allowance of €160 per month instead of the previous €150. The money is intended for babysitters, for example, when classes are held in the evenings.

Age limit: In future, students who want to take up a course of study later on will also be able to receive Bafög. The age limit will be raised from 30 to 45.

Pupils and trainees: Pupils and trainees who live away from home can in future receive €632 instead of the previous €585.

READ ALSO: Germany boosts funding for EU’s Erasmus student exchange programme

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COST OF LIVING

What students in Germany should know about the €200 energy payout

At a cabinet meeting on Friday, German ministers waved through plans to offer a €200 lump sum to support students and trainees with higher energy bills. Here's what we know so far.

What students in Germany should know about the €200 energy payout

What’s happening?

Students in Germany can look forward to a bit of extra cash in the near future after ministers green-lit proposals for a €200 energy relief payout. 

Details of the one-off payment for students were originally set out in the government’s third energy relief package, which included a range of measures to help the population with the rising cost of living.

Students are the third group to receive a lump sum for their energy bills. In September, employees in Germany received €300 on top of their usual wages, while pensioners are also set to get a €300 payout by December 15th.

Who’s eligible for the payment – and when can they get it? 

Around 3.4 million students enrolled in programmes at a university or technical college will be eligible for the payout, provided they have their main residence in Germany. Technical colleges, or Fachhochschulen, are specialised universities where teachers, engineers and business administrators are trained. 

Regardless of whether students are undertaking an academic or vocational programme, the main criterion for eligibility will be that they are enrolled at a higher education institute by December 1st this year. 

So far, the Ministry of Education hasn’t set a fixed date for students to receive the money, but is setting its sights on early 2023. 

READ ALSO: When will people in Germany get their December gas bill payout?

How do students and trainees get it?

Unlike the energy relief payments for employees and pensioners this year, students won’t receive their €200 payment automatically. 

Instead, the Education Ministry is working to create a digital platform where students can apply for the money. It is still a bit up in the air when students will be able to submit their claims or when the deadline will be. 

Following approval from the cabinet, politicians will have to vote on the measure in the Bundestag. But with the traffic-light coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) holding a majority of seats there, it’s expected to pass without any issues. 

Why are students receiving financial support?

With inflation soaring to record levels in recent months, many students – who often rely on minimum-wage jobs and so-called Bafög grants – have been struggling to make ends meet.

On Wednesday, data released by the Federal Office of Statistics revealed that 38 percent of students in Germany were at risk of falling below the poverty line last year.

People who earn less than 60 percent of the median income in Germany are considered to be at risk of poverty, according to the EU.

Since low-income households are disproportionately affected by the rising cost of living, the government has pledged to step in with additional financial support. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: 10 ways to save money on your groceries in Germany

What are people saying?

Speaking to Handelsblatt on Friday, the German Student Union hit out at the government for dragging its feet on the payout since deciding on the measure in September. 

Many students need the money now because of exploding prices, secretary general Matthias Anbuhl explained. He said the Bundestag must now pass the one-off payment quickly and the money must be paid out as soon as possible.

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