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Bafög and other Student Loans in Germany

Students should never have to waste time worrying about their financial situation. In Germany, there are generous provisions for students, including a range of state-financed grants and private loans. This ensures that poorer students don't slip through the net, and it can also help international students who need some extra help. So let's get to know these essential services in more detail.

Bafög

If you experience funding difficulties during an academic course in Germany, there's an excellent chance that BAföG could help.

What is BAfög in Germany?

BAföG is a shortened form of the word “Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz”, which can be roughly translated as the Federal Training Assistance Act. As the name suggests, it is designed to provide support for those undergoing training.

Money is provided in a mix of a zero-interest loan and simple grants, and a monthly maximum of 735 EUR applies. Amounts are also means assessed so those with parental support may receive nothing.

Since its creation, the system has become a key part of Germany's student financial aid setup, providing help for around a quarter of all students.

How many years of residency do you need to qualify for BAfög?

Initially, BAfög was intended to serve German students alone. It has since been extended to international students. However, funds for non-German recipients are harder to obtain and are generally limited to exceptional cases.

Recipients typically must have been resident in Germany for 5 years. But exceptions can be made for those with a strong prospect of remaining in Germany, such as those who are married to German spouses.

How do you apply for BAfög?

Applications for the BAfög can be made online via the service's website. (http://www.bafög.de/de/antragsassistent-305.php). Documents can either be completed online, or printed and sent via post.

To do so, you'll need to supply proof of health insurance, passport documents, proof of income and assets, and possibly information about parental income.

To find out more, head to the BAfög website, where you'll find handy information sheets.

How do international students pay for college?

Sometimes, it can seem daunting to manage your finances and study hard at the same time. It helps to be proactive and make arrangements before they become urgent.

Many students choose to prepare by filling blocked accounts with enough money for their living costs. These accounts may be required to obtain student visas, but are useful financial tools in themselves, making it easier to keep spending low during semesters.

Others transfer money from parents or existing savings into private bank accounts in Germany with banks like N26. Many still need to seek scholarships from foundations, help from the German state, or student loans. The exact mix varies from student to student. In any case, carefully planning your funding method is always a good idea.

Academic place

With BAfög, it's always best to apply as soon as your academic place is confirmed. And remember, applications need to be renewed for every year of study.

Other Student Loans

If you can't obtain support via BAfög, other forms of assistance may well be available. So don't worry. German authorities and academic institutions are keen to help as many people train as possible, and student welfare is a huge concern.

Can international students get federal loans?

The Bildungskredit will probably be the most promising alternative funding route. This functions like a normal student loan but is provided by a mixture of state funding and private finance.

While money for student loans comes from the state, the loans are supplied and administered by semi-private banks like KFW-Studienkredit. Rates tend to be very low, and all students can apply.

How much Student loan can I get per semester?

Applicants for Bildungskredit loan must be aged under 36, and recipients can apply for as much as 7,200 EUR per year. Repayments kick in 4 years after graduation, and cannot exceed 120 EUR per month.

If this isn't sufficient or attractive, other student loan systems exist. For instance, Deutsche Bank offers relatively low-cost student loans for account holders. Recipients may need to hold a certain amount in their Deutsche Bank account before funds will be provided, and extensive credit checks will apply.

Subject-specific loans

There are also subject-specific loans known as Bildungsfonds. Companies like Festo provide generous credit for STEM students, especially those with strong career prospects.

Can foreign students get student loans?

The various private and semi-private loans we've looked at are all available for foreign students. In Germany, it's illegal to discriminate based on nationality. Although some schemes may be harder to access than others, most provide coverage for students of all backgrounds.

Can I get a student loan to study abroad?

What if you are studying in a German institution and want to spend a semester or year elsewhere? In that case, financial assistance may well be available.

When it comes to studying within the European Union (and a few partner countries such as Iceland or Serbia), Erasmus+ could be a lifeline. Under Erasmus+ funding is provided via the EU, and substantial amounts are available.

If you are studying at a German university and want to spend time in the UK or France, it could be the ideal funding solution.