Berlin (dpa) – Federal Minister of Education Anja Karliczek has made a positive note on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the introduction of student loans.
The CDU politician told the German news agency that one can be proud of the many personal achievements this has made possible. “Bafög’s 50th birthday is an unprecedented national achievement for equal opportunities in Germany.”
Karliczek also spoke in favor of a reform of scholarships after the federal elections. “We should further develop the student loan in the next legislature and make it more flexible.” The Minister of Education may consider increasing the age limit for student loans, so that people who decide to study later in life can also apply for the allowance.
The number of recipients has decreased
Critical voices about the anniversary come from the opposition, unions and the German Student Union (DSW), which manages the processing of student loan applications and the payment of allowances. They call for fundamental reforms, as the number of Bafög beneficiaries continues to decline year after year, according to the Federal Statistical Office.
After a peak of 979,000 Bafög beneficiaries (including student Bafög) in 2012, the number according to the Federal Statistical Office was only 639,000 last year. According to the German Students’ Union, the reasons are, among other things, that the service has not been sufficiently reformed, expanded and adapted to the new realities of student life over the years. An overly complicated application is regularly criticized.
Flashback: on September 1, 1971, the Federal Law on Training Aid (Bafög) entered into force. The competent Federal Minister for Youth, Käte Strobel (SPD), spoke at the time of “a very considerable stretch of the road towards the dismantling of educational barriers”. The training subsidy is advanced “a very significant, yes, decisive step” in favor of better educational opportunities.
The student loan has been reformed several times over the years. At first, it was a simple grant without reimbursement. It was then converted into a full loan. The rule has been in place since 1990: half is given free, the other half must be reimbursed, but now no more than 10,010 euros. The amount of the student loan is based, among other things, on the parents’ income and assets. There is currently a maximum of 861 euros.
According to the Federal Statistical Office, more than 36 million people have benefited from it since the Office began its survey in 1975. According to the Conference of University Rectors, 270,000 of the 606,000 students enrolled have benefited from it in onset (44.6%). According to figures from the Federal Statistical Office, they were 466,000 in 2020, with 2.9 million students now enrolled.
Is the student loan not meeting its initial objective?
Not much remains of Bafög’s original goal of creating equal opportunities in the education system, said German Federation of Trade Unions vice-president Elke Hannack of dpa. Germany cannot and must not afford to deprive working children of their educational opportunities.
“Instead of the trend reversal promised by Karliczek, the continuous decline in student loans continues,” criticized Kai Gehring, spokesman for university policy for the parliamentary group of the Greens. The latest Bafög reform of 2019, in which, among other things, tax exemptions for the imputation of income and wealth were increased in order to widen the circle of beneficiaries, turns out to be a complete flop. Gehring called for a fresh start “with basic security for students and trainees”.
The left has also spoken critically: the federal government has delayed the necessary major reform, said Federal Director General Jörg Schindler. Student associations, youth organizations of political parties, trade unions and other youth associations also joined in the general criticism. The FDP parliamentary group in the Bundestag discussed its reform proposals: a basic grant of 200 euros per month for all students, which does not have to be reimbursed. In addition, there would be another 200 euros non-refundable if you work alongside or hold an honorary position during your studies.
The General Secretary of the German Students’ Union, Achim Meyer auf der Heyde, spoke of a success on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the student loan. But the pressure to act is great. “We need to keep the student loan in good shape for the next 50 years, and that includes more than quantitative increases in funding rates and parental allowances.” The DSW is in favor of the service being once again fully subsidized – that is, without repayment obligations – as in the early days of Bafög. In addition, the student unions are asking for an extension of the maximum funding period. In addition, the beneficiary group should be broadened so that middle-income students from the parental home also have access to student loans.
In the medium term, the DSW offers a “three-basket model”: basic financial assistance for all students greater than the amount of family allowances, plus student loans based on needs and income, plus an amount for one-off expenses. at the start of the semester, eg for a laptop or semester fees.