The cost of studies in any Belgium university or college can be best discovered by looking at the three main communities – the Belgium French, the Belgium German and the Belgium Flemish language communities. In all these communities the subject of tuition fees are more or less similar but they do have their differences. What is most noticeable about Belgium tuition fees is that they are extremely low when compared to other countries because of the generous subsidies paid by the government.
In the Belgium French community, fees are controlled by the community government and they cannot be more than 837 € with an intermediate fee of 374 €. However, there are noticeable differences between fees charged by universities and non-university high education institutions. Students also have to pay additional fees specific to courses taken but in all cases, the level of fees are strictly controlled and do not exceed 2,000 €. The tuition fees in the other communities conform to the dictates of community government policies, also not losing sight of the generosity of government subsidies.
The cost of living in Belgium is not far removed from the rest of the developed world but with considerable savings on the cost of studies, students are better able to cope with their personal welfare which studying. The cities, like everywhere else in the world, are more expensive than the rural areas but the all-inclusive cost of living tag is far better that those existing in other developed countries. In Belgium, the monthly cost of living is 550 to 650 € which includes accommodation, food, utility bills and travel.
The subject of financing studies can be dealt with effectively by again looking closely at the situation prevailing in the 3 main communities. In the Belgium French Community, public grants are made available to students on low incomes below 35 years old. In the Belgium German community, student grants are made proportionate to needs and are made available by the social security system and are between 362 and 2,469 € per year. Grants in the Belgium Flemish community are needs-related with eligibility determined by parental income and the academic achievement of the student. Typically, the grants are 250 € to 3,840 €.
In addition, families are given allowances to augment low incomes. In the Belgium French community, the allowance amounts to 88 € a month but it may vary depending on the number of children in the family. In order to qualify for the allowance, a student must not engage in employment except during the summer vacations but not to exceed 240 hours of work each quarter. The allowance is normally paid to the mother, but in her absence, to the person who actually supports the student. For family allowances, the same conditions apply in the Belgium German community and Belgium Flemish community.
Another important aspect that needs addressing relates to benefits from tax concessions. In all three communities, families are given very generous tax benefits though the amounts differ from one community to another. In the Belgium French community for instance, the non-taxable income threshold increases with every dependent child ranging from 1,400 € for one child, 3,590 € for the second child, 8,050 € for the third child, 13,020 € for the fourth child with 4,970 € added to this maximum amount for each subsequent child. The tax benefits for the other two communities are just as generous.
In Belgium, the main sponsors for student academic pursuits rests with the civil authorities principally the Flemish and French speaking authorities such as the Flemish Department of Education. The universities themselves also offer student grants and scholarships. The distinguished and well known Erasmus mobility scholarships and the Erasmus Mundus scholarships offer students other sources of local funding for their academic studies. For the international source of funding for students, the many UN agencies come to the fore with UNESCO leading the way followed closely by the WHO and the FAO. From outside the UN arises NATO and the EU to help spread wealth to people aspiring for their bachelor’s master’s and doctorate degrees in Belgian institutions of higher education.
In the Belgium French community, loans are available for families with a minimum of 3 dependent children but in practice very few students take out loans. The generous subsidies paid to the academic institutions, the grants, family allowances and tax concessions make the taking out of loans unnecessary and only add to the financial burden of students in terms of repayments. In the Belgium German community, students are allowed to take out loans of 1,000 € for the first cycle of studies and another 1,500€ for the second cycle. The loan attracts an interest of between 0 and 3% but this depends on the student’s income. Loans should be repaid in full within 3 years after graduation. No provisions are made for loans in the Belgium Flemish community.
In all communities, special regulations apply to students who wish to be employed while studying in the universities or colleges. Students can be employed during the summer vacations but may not to work more than 240 hours in each quarter year.