The purpose of BAföG is to provide training assistance for those students who are not able to finance a course of training that suits their talents and interests, provided they meet the criteria stipulated in BAföG. The act represents a sound contribution towards the establishment of equal opportunities in education. When introducing BAföG, the federal legislators considered it a constitutional duty to ensure that young people could benefit from comparable opportunities when embarking on careers, despite considerable differences in their social backgrounds. Although BAföG has undergone various amendments during its 40 years, this guiding principle still applies today. As with all social security benefits, training assistance can only be claimed if the individual's financial means have been exhausted. For this reason, BAföG is dependent on family circumstances; the incomes of the student, his/her spouse, and his/her parents are all taken into consideration.
German nationals and students from EU or EEA Member States may be eligible for training assistance if they meet certain conditions: generally, applicants must live in Germany, and EU/EEA citizens must either as children have freedom of movement within the EU, or have themselves been gainfully employed in Germany. Other foreign nationals with certain legal statuses (for example, a permanent residency status) may also be eligible. Furthermore, training assistance can be awarded to other foreign nationals if they - or at least one parent - have been gainfully employed in Germany for several years prior to the commencement of training. Overseas students coming to study in Germany and not meeting any of the above criteria are generally not entitled to BAföG support.
Students attending certain types of secondary school, and those attending institutes of higher education (Höhere Fachschulen, academies, and universities), as well as those participating in practical training or distance learning may be eligible to receive grants/loans pursuant to BAföG. In general, BAföG assistance is provided for training completed in Germany. Training received in another country is mainly supported, for temporary periods of training abroad (in non EU-countries usually limited to two semesters). It is also possible to obtain BAföG support for training completed partially or entirely within a member state of the EU or in Switzerland.
Financial assistance is provided if the student's achievements give reason to expect that he or she will attain the desired training goal. This is generally assumed as long as attendance and participation requirements are met. Students at institutes of higher education must provide evidence of progress in their studies at the end of the fourth semester. If training directives and regulations prescribe intermediate examinations before the third semester, the provision of financial assistance in the third and fourth semesters is made dependent on the submission of corresponding evidence of academic progress.
In principle, a student can receive financial assistance for a specific programme if he or she begins that programme prior to turning 30 years of age, or 35 years of age for a master programme. Exceptions to this rule include graduates of a second educational route, gainfully employed persons without formal higher education entrance qualifications who, by virtue of their vocational qualifications, have been enrolled at a institute of higher education, or persons who were prevented from embarking on training before age 30 or 35, respectively, due to personal reasons (such as illness) or family reasons (such as the care and rearing of children).
As a rule, BAföG grants and loans are awarded for a period of one year at a time (paid out on a monthly basis), the start date of which depends on both the commencement of training and the submission of an application. At the earliest, BAföG assistance can take effect at the beginning of the month in which an application has been submitted.
The amount of training assistance awarded to students is calculated according to basic needs, which include general living expenses and training costs. The maximum rate of financial assistance for a student living away from home is currently €670 per month. The exact amount depends on various factors including the housing and health insurance situation of the applicant, as well as the income, savings, and assets of the applicant, and those of his/her spouse or parents. Additional allowances are paid for students with children up to 10 years of age (€113 for the first and €85 for each additional child).
If after the deduction of particular taxes, the income of the student, his/her spouse, and his/her parents exceeds the tax-free allowances established under the law, then the total exceeding the allowance is deducted from the basic rate of assistance. If the income does not exceed the tax-fee allowance, then the needs of the student are met entirely by the training assistance.
Funding is provided for the duration of training, including the period during which students are not required to attend classes and lectures. As a rule, students receive assistance as long as they continue to attend the training institution. The duration of financial assistance is based on the standard period of study (Regelstudienzeit) for the chosen discipline, as determined by the respective institute.
Training assistance for secondary school students is provided in the form of grants, whereas students at institutes of higher education (Höhere Fachschulen, academies, and universities) receive 50 per cent in the form of a grant and 50 per cent in the form of a loan. If a student requires longer to complete a course of training due to a physical or mental disability, the assistance following the standard period of study is provided solely in the form of a grant. Students training abroad can also receive an extra grant to cover study fees for a maximum of one year (up to €4,600). In special cases, students can receive additional assistance following the standard period of study in the form of an interest bearing bank loan. Another interest bearing bank loan of up to €300 monthly is available for special training purposes with a maximum duration of 2 years (but not exceeding the completion of the 12th semester).
BAföG loans, with the exception of the aforementioned bank loans, are administered and called in by the Federal Office of Administration (Bundesverwaltungsamt). They are interest-free, and are subject to the specific social terms and conditions for their repayment. They are repayable within 20 years. The obligation to repay begins five years after the standard period of study in the first training programme financed by loan. At the moment, the minimum monthly rate for repayment amounts to €105. Recent amendments have abolished former possibilities for waiving partial repayment obligation on the basis of social aspects or to encourage the speedy conclusion of studies. However, the maximum repayment total is capped at €10,000, even if the received loans exceed this amount.
The aforementioned interest bearing bank loans are awarded and administered by the German "Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau" (KfW). The interest rate follows the EURIBOR plus an additional percentage point for administrative costs.
Since April 2006 the KfW offers another student loan which is not means tested and can be awarded flexibly up to 650 € monthly for complete studies. The interest rate also follows the EURIBOR but with an additional risk surcharge.
Applications for BAföG assistance are to be made in writing, using the designated forms, either by students over the age of 15 or by their legal guardians. The relevant forms can be obtained from all offices dealing with training assistance or as a download here.
The appropriate contact for university students is generally the Student Welfare Organisation/Student Union at that university. Students of evening grammar schools, adult education colleges, Höhere Fachschulen, and academies should contact the Office for Training Assistance in whose district the training facility is located. Other students should contact the Office for Training Assistance in the municipality of the parents' residence.
Special application procedures apply for eligible students who intend to study outside of Germany. For more details, please see the contact information directories here.
[PDF - 88.2 kB]