Public financial support for students in Greece is very low. Total support averaged per student is just 1.5 € per month, compared to the EU average of 102 €. The basic Greek grant system blends merit and need in providing support for students. So students, who require grant support due to financial need, must additionally score very good grades to receive a grant. Consequently, most students receive no grants, since they either lack the high academic achievement or their family income is too high. Some additional indirect support is provide through tax relief for parents on educational expenses and through family allowances.
The grant system is primarily administered by the IKY, or State Scholarship Foundation. The Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, Universities, research institutions and private foundations may also provide grants.
Applications for loans are done entirely privately with banks and other lenders and there is no active government guarantee scheme in place.
To be eligible for a grant, students must score the top grade for their entrance exams into the first year of their undergraduate degree. They then receive a grant of 1,467 € - provided their personal and/or family income is ‘low’. If a student continues to receive top grades in their second and third years they will receive the same amount again, but only if they have a grade average of 8.5/10 are they free of the income test.
Students in the second-cycle (Master’s degree) who obtain an IKY grant receive 450 € a month for the duration of their programme, plus 3,000 € per year towards their fees, or their full fees, whichever is lower.
Tax relief is another way for a student and his family to effectively obtaining a grant. Since most students in Greece live at home, their family can claim a 2,000 € tax-free allowance on top of their normal tax allowance, until the student is 26 years old. They also receive a tax-deduction of 10% of the student’s rent up to a maximum of 100 €. Family allowances are given to parents with children who are full-time students. If the family income is less than 30,000 € a year, an allowance of 1,000 € for the housing of a student who must live away from home to study is given.
EU students resident in Greece can apply for a grant and must be treated equal with Portuguese students. International students, even those not on a grant or scholarship programme, pay no fees for post-graduate studies.
Although the government had a policy of giving security guarantees for student loans, there currently seems to be no working scheme in place. Student loans are offered by a number of Greek banks, however. The maximum sums range from 6,000 to 30,000 € and interest rates are high, between 10 and 12%. Typical loans range from 1.5 to 7 years in length and some offer a one-year ‘grace period’ where only interest is paid. For the balance of the loan normal monthly payments must be made. Insurance against failure to repay due to unemployment or death must also be taken out. A guarantor may also be needed.
Although EU citizens have the right to the same grants as local students, as in many European countries students need to have established themselves in Greece before making an application. Since all EU citizens have freedom of movement, they cannot be prevented from entering Greece and looking for work. Once established an EU student can then apply for a grant under the same terms and conditions as apply to Greek citizens. Since the student loans available are not regulated by the government a loan, however, be entirely at the discretion of the lender and it is very likely that a guarantee would need to be provided.
Non-EU students would need to be resident first and would need to enter on a work visa, which is difficult to obtain, so it is much more difficult for a non-EU student to obtain a grant unless they were clearly established in Greece. Similarly, lenders are rarely willing to give loans to someone who does not seem to be a permanent resident. There are however several Greek scholarship schemes for non-EU students which are equivalent to or even perhaps more generous than Greek grants.
The normal grant for a Greek student is the IKY scholarship, which is both merit and need-based. Grants are small at undergraduate level, but there are no fees. Grants are larger at post-graduate level but will often not cover the full fee load.
Student loans do not provide a large part of student financing in Greece, largely because the government guarantee scheme is not in place. Europe-wide reform of student loans is being discussed, and may come to the assistance of Greek students and those wishing to study in Greece.