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Germany to increase financial aid for students

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Germany to increase financial aid for students
Bafög application documents are on a table. Pupils and students in need will receive more Bafög from the new school year and the coming winter semester. Image by picture alliance/dpa | Hendrik Schmidt

Students in Germany can get more financial aid starting from the next winter semester. Here's what you need to know about coming changes to the Bafög programme.

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On Thursday, the Bundestag passed a student aid reform that will increase the amount of funding students in Germany can receive starting in the coming winter semester.

The reform passed with votes from the SPD, Greens and FDP parties. The CDU/CSU, the Left Party and the Sahra Wagenknecht alliance voted against, while the AfD abstained. 

Changes will be applied to the “Federal Education Funding Act” (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz) – commonly called BAföG – which is a state-funded financial aid programme.

Here are details about the reform.

Higher basic needs supplements and the introduction of a start-up bonus

The so-called ‘basic needs’ allowance for students will rise from €452 to €475. The housing allowance, which is available to students who no longer live with their parents, will also increase from €360 to €380. 

Taken together, the maximum amount of BAföG funding per student is increasing from €812 to €855.

Health insurance allowances are increasing for students who pay for their own coverage.

Additionally a start-up benefit of €1000 will be available to first-year students under 25 who receive citizen's allowance, or that live in families that qualify for other state benefits such as the child allowance or housing benefit. 

This bonus is intended to fund the purchase of a laptop, textbooks, or moving costs. In its draft law, the Federal Ministry of Education expects about 15,000 applications for this start-up aid. 

Finally, the Bafög reform will introduce a ‘flexibility semester’ – basically allowing students to continue receiving funding for an additional six months if their studies are extended for a semester, which is common among graduate students.

It will also be easier for students to change their subject of study without jeopardising their Bafög entitlement. 

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The funding increases are to take effect as of August 1st – in time for the start of the next school year and the coming winter semester.

Bafög was last increased by 5.75 percent in the winter semester of 2022/23.

Student unions say the funding increase is insufficient

Social organisations such as the German Students' Union (DSW) have been calling for an increase in the Bafög rates to account for the rising cost of living for some time. 

DSW managing director Matthias Anbuhl told DPA that the funding increases are a step in the right direction, but added that it falls short of a real structural reform: "It's a shame, more would have been possible”.

Representatives of the traffic-light coalition, however, defended their efforts. 

"We are taking care of Bafög like no coalition before," said the chairman of the Bundestag Education Committee Kai Gehring (Greens). 

SPD politician Oliver Kaczmarek said that all in all, this is the largest Bafög reform in over 20 years.

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