The term BAföG is short for Federal Education Funding Act (“Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz”). It is a state-funded financial aid programme for undergraduate students. In general, every German and some foreign students can apply if they themselves or their parents don’t have the financial means to support their university studies. Funding consists of two equal parts: a grant and a zero-interest government loan. That means that after you finish your studies, you will only have to pay back half of the money you received and at no interest. You can only receive BAföG for a standard period of study (“Regelstudienzeit”). The length of this period depends on your subject and university. If you need more time to finish your studies, you can apply for an extension. However, this might only be granted for a semester or two.
How can I pay for my studies?
If you are planning to study at a German university, you will probably be wondering how to finance your studies. Fortunately, most public universities in German charge no or very low tuition fees (“Studiengebühren”) because they are state-subsidised. If you are enrolled in a bachelor’s degree programme, you won’t normally pay any tuition fees at all. Certain master’s degree programmes, however, come with tuition fees.
No matter where and what you study, you will have to pay a semester contribution (“Semesterbeitrag”) at the beginning of each term. This money is used to fund university services, e.g. the cafeteria, student halls and administrative services. The semester contribution will cost you 250 euros on average. The exact amount is set by the university you are enrolled at. In addition to that, you will have to cover your living expenses, e.g. rent, food and books for your studies. All universities offer accommodation in student halls which is generally basic, but very cheap. As a student you will also receive a lot of reductions, e.g. on public transport or at cultural venues.
Student Loans and Grants
Depending on your financial situation, you will have various options how to finance your studies. A lot of German students receive state-funded loans, referred to as “BAföG”, which you might also be entitled to depending on your residence status. Germany has set up this programme in order to grant access to higher education to every student regardless of their financial situation. In addition to that, scholarships, loans and other funding programmes are open to German and foreign students alike. You are also allowed to work as a student, but certain restrictions apply.
Please note that a lot of information in this chapter will only helpful if you are already living in Germany. If you are still in your home country and planning to come to Germany on a student visa, read on here.
What is BAföG?
Can I apply for BAföG?
How do I apply for BAföG?
How do I receive the money?
How much do I have to pay back?
If you aren’t entitled to receive BAföG or you prefer to finance your studies by other means, you will have a number of alternative options. Most of them entail just as much paperwork as the BAföG application, but you shouldn’t let this deter you from applying.
Scholarships and Loans
University Guarantee Fund
Scholarships for Excellent Students
National Scholarship („Deutschlandstipendium“)
As a student, you aren’t entitled to receive Jobcenter benefits. Those are only meant for unemployed people whereas students technically have an “occupation”. Financial support for students is granted according to another scheme which is known as “BaföG”. Please note that you’re not eligible for BaföG if you have come to Germany on a student visa.