In Germany a student in financial need can expect to find support from two major government grant systems. In some cases these are only available to German nationals or residents, but others are for everyone, including international students. Loans are also available through a government-supported scheme and these are available without income restrictions.
The chief vehicle for government support is the BAföG. This scheme is provided by the Ministry of Education of the Federal Government and is subject to quite complex calculations and deductions based on income and assets. The second source of government funding is through the Germany Scholarship, the Deutschlandstipendium, which despite its name is really a grant. This is based on a public/private funding model, with equal contributions being made by the government and private businesses. This is a relatively small programme, with 13.000 students currently in receipt of this support.
Loans for education are mainly provided through the Bildungskredit, or Education Loan scheme, which is a government supported system administered and provided by a group of banks. There is also the Education Fund system, the Bildungsfonds and in addition over 30 different loan schemes available in Germany for students of all kinds and provided under a range of conditions.
Applications for the BAföG are made through student unions or through Financial Aid offices at HEIs, rather than directly to the Federal Government. Availability is limited to German national and residents. EU citizens must already be in Germany, and therefore resident under the Freedom of Movement provisions of the EU, before applying for this grant. Non-EU students must also be legal residents. For lower degrees students must generally be under 30 years of age, and under 35 for post-graduate degrees, but there is a procedure available for making exceptions to this requirement. The amount available is subject to a means-test, so both the income and assets of the student and his or her parents are taken into account and must be declared. Deductions calculated from those resources are then made from the basic needs of the students, to produce the actual amount the student will receive each month. Students need to show progress in their studies to continue to receive the BAföG. The BAföG is not completely a grant as 50% must be repaid eventually on an interest-free basis. Repayments must begin no later than 5 years after graduation.
The Deutschlandstipendium is available to all students without a residency requirement. This is a merit-based programme, requiring academic excellence and in addition, evidence of social commitment and personal achievement, such as overcoming challenges in his or her life or obstacles caused by family or social background. There is a flat payment of 300 € a month, provided on a 50/50 basis by the state and private businesses.
The Bildungskredit is available to all students regardless of their, or their parents, income. It can be used in addition to the BAföG payments. It can be used to fund undergraduate or postgraduate studies. The maximum loan is 7200 € and is paid out in equal monthly payments spread over a 24-month period. Students must be under 36 years of age. Repayments of the loan begin 4 years after the first payment, and are fixed at 120 € a month. The conditions for the large number of other types of loans available vary widely.
Education Funds, the Bildungsfonds are a special kind of loan which is not based on interest but instead on income. These are repaid over a 4 or 5 year period at a fixed percentage of gross income. So a graduate who succeeds in earning a good salary can actually end up repaying more than the original amount of the loan, but of course the reverse applies for students less fortunate in their early careers.
Non-EU students may also be eligible for the BAföG if they meet the residency requirements. The Deutschlandstipendium is freely available to all foreign students of high academic achievement. Loans are also available in principle to foreign students, but a guarantor will usually be required and the applicant may have to show that they intend to remain in Germany to work after graduation.
The basic government grant system, the BAföG, and the government/private Deutschlandstipendium are the main grant schemes available in Germany. There are over 30 different loan schemes available, some government secured, like the Bildungskredit and Bildungsfonds plus the many fully or partially private loan schemes that exist in Germany.