Student grant levels too low, survey finds

The Deutsches Studentenwerk or DSW – German Student Welfare Service – has called for an increase in federal government grant support for students in response to the findings of a survey by the Berlin-based Institute for Education and Socio-Economic Research and Consulting or FiBS.

Germany’s federal education grants act, the Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz or BAföG uses fixed spending levels to calculate financial requirements for students, with grants then being awarded on a means-tested basis.

BAföG payments are provided to students via the DSW. Part of the BAföG grant is a loan that has to be repaid in small instalments on graduating.

Together with the German Association for Public and Private Welfare, DSW developed a ‘consumer basket’ for students between 1971 and 1990 that provided an empirical basis for grant payment levels.

The FiBS survey represents the first review of the empirical basis for grant payments since 1990.


Its chief finding is that the BAföG levels, measured against the basic requirements represented by the consumer basket, are too low. Overall, there is a gap of €70 to €75 (US$78 to US$84) a month.

But flat rate payments for health and nursing care insurance do not really cover costs for all students entitled to BAföG either. Here, support falls way short of what students over the age of 30 years have to pay in health insurance. Neither do supplements to cover housing costs meet present-day rent levels.

In 2015, 611,000 out of Germany’s roughly 2.8 million students received BAföG support, 401,000 students on a monthly average. The federal government has provided overall funding for the BAföG grants since 2015.

On average, students eligible for BAföG support received €448 a month in 2015. Total federal government expenditure on BAföG grants for students was at €2.158 billion in that year.

“A new federal government will have to establish the financial requirements of students on the basis of the latest available figures,” says DSW President Dieter Timmermann.

“This could be done with the official income and consumer statistics issued by the Federal Statistical Office or with the DSW’s most recent social survey. The government should then raise BAföG levels as quickly as possible to bridge the gaps that the FiBS survey highlights.”