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Funding and Financial Aid: Financing your studies

There are a number of ways to cover your expenses while studying in Germany. The best possibility is to obtain government funding called “BAföG”. Some universities pay for certain fees or waive them altogether. The good news is that German universities charge low or no tuition fees.

by the Editors

Calculating © Hagenguth/DAAD
Calculating . © Hagenguth/DAAD

There are various ways to obtain financial aid which all depend on how long you have been in Germany, how old you are and what your residence status is.

German universities charge very low tuition fees, and often none at all. Most universities in Germany are state subsidised. Students do not normally pay tuition fees for bachelor’s degree programmes. Certain master’s degree programmes might come with tuition fees, but compared with other countries, they are not very high.

The federal state of Baden-Württemberg has however announced that it will begin charging tuition fees (for Bachelor’s, Master’s, Diplom and state examination degree programmes) of €1,500 per semester for non-EU citizens from the winter semester 2017/18. Doctoral candidates will not be subject to fees. Students who are already studying in Baden-Württemberg but have not graduated by the 2017/18 winter semester will not be required to pay tuition fees to complete their degree. This regulation on tuition fees in Baden-Württemberg is currently still in the political decision-making process; detailed regulations have therefore not yet been determined.

Fee waivers and university scholarships

Some universities waive or pay for certain charges, such as auditing fees, the semester ticket, admission fees, examination fees and German language courses. Please inquire about the waiver policy at the university where you wish to study.

Scholarships

Various organisations, universities, states and cities offer scholarships specifically for refugees. Unfortunately, there is no database containing all suitable funding opportunities available to you at this time. We suggest contacting the university where you wish to study and asking about their financial aid packages.

The DAAD currently offers no scholarships exclusively for refugees.

BAföG

BAföG is a state-funded financial aid programme and stands for BundesAusbildungsrderungsGesetz. Funding is comprised in equal part of a grant and a zero-interest government loan. You are obliged to start repaying this government loan, i.e. half of the total funding, in regular instalments no earlier than five years after graduation. No one is required to ever repay more than 10,000 euros. The amount of BAföG you receive depends on certain factors. The maximum amount is 735 euros per month. As long as you and your parents do not have sufficient income, you are normally entitled to receive BAföG for the duration of your standard period of study.

Your residence status and your personal qualifications play a role in whether and when you are entitled to BAföG. If you have any questions regarding your entitlement, please contact the respective Studentenwerk.

The general rule is:

  1. If you are a recognised refugee (i.e. as entitled to asylum, granted refugee status or subsidiary protection),

you can apply for BAföG irrespective of how long you have already been in Germany.

  1. If you are a “tolerated” refugee or holder of a specific humanitarian residence permit,

you can apply for BAföG only after 15 months from the date you originally applied for asylum in Germany. This rule went into effect on 1 January 2016.

  1. If your application for asylum is still being processed,

then you are not eligible for BAföG, but in most cases, you will continue to receive financial support through the Asylum Seeker Benefits Act (AsylbLG). For further information please contact the respective social service department or the foreigners authority.

If you are entitled to BAföG, you must submit an application. This involves filling out various forms and sending them to the responsible BAföG office at your university. You must submit several other documents and certificates with your application, for example, statements showing your income and assets, as well as certificates from your university. You can only receive BAföG if your application is complete. In other words, you must provide all of the information required along with all necessary documents. You can find a checklist to help you fill out the BAföG application on the Studentenwerk website.

You must submit your BAföG application to the Studentenwerk (student service organisation), which is responsible for the university at which you study or would like to study. The university’s financial aid office can answer your questions and help you complete your application correctly. Visit the main Studentenwerk website to find the student service organisation responsible for your university.

Academic Advising Office at the University Guarantee Fund

The Academic Advising Office at the University Guarantee Fund helps young immigrants continue or commence studies in Germany. The counselling sessions on location are free of charge. There are 21 advising offices throughout Germany. You can make an appointment on their website.

The Academic Advising Office at the University Guarantee Fund also offers financial aid. They fund selected German courses which prepare you for TestDaF exam and also cover the examination fees. Additional financing is available to offset the cost of rent and learning materials, as well as covering the cost of fees and notarisation of documents. You have to meet certain criteria to be eligible for financial aid. You can find information about the funding criteria on the University Guarantee Fund website.