The German Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG) provides educational opportunities

BAföG enables young men and women to choose the training that suits their personal interests, irrespective of their families' financial means. Millions of young people have already benefited from this kind of training assistance.

German universities are open to students from various backgrounds. © dpa/picture-alliance

BAföG has been providing educational opportunities for young people for over forty years. Basically, federal training assistance under BAföG means that training is funded by the public sector. The state provides individual trainees with the financial means necessary to cover living expenses and training fees.

This way, millions of adolescents and young adults have benefited from BAföG to date. Over the years, BAföG has been developed further and continuously adapted to meet changes in young peoples' everyday lives. Adjusting the legal provisions to meet latest developments will always be at the very top of our political agenda.

Today, a good education is more important than ever before. This holds true for every single one of us as well as for society as a whole. Knowledge and the application of knowledge are Germany's greatest assets. The German Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG) ensures that young people can undergo the kind of training that best suits their talent and inclination.

In former times, parents and, failing that, the trainees themselves were considered responsible for covering their individual subsistence and training needs. As a result, a large number of capable young people who were interested in enrolling in training were deprived of the opportunity to gain sound qualifications because their parents were unable to cover the high costs of training, usually lasting several years. For this reason and from a social point of view, it was essential for the German social state to work to ensure equal career opportunities for all young men and women. This task was assumed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Modernized BAföG to safeguard decent training

We have substantially reformed the German Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG). School and university students will receive seven percent more funding in the future and the number of eligible students will be increased further.

With its 25th amendment to the BAföG Act, the Federal Government has assumed full responsibility for the provision of funding under the Federal Training Assistance Act as from 1 January 2015. This reduces the annual burden on the Länder (the federal states) by approximately 1.17 billion euros so that they can focus their funding responsibilities on universities and schools. The conditions of BAföG assistance will also change as of the beginning of the new school year 2016 and the university Winter Semester 2016/2017: The BAföG entitlement and the allowance for income from other sources have been raised. "This amendment means a considerable enhancement since we are adjusting federal training assistance to the students' real living and training conditions", Education Minister Johanna Wanka said.

The most important aspects of the reform are:

1. Raised entitlements and housing supplements

The BAföG entitlement has been increased by 7 percent across the board. This raises individual funding considerably. The housing supplement for BAföG recipients who do not live with their parents has been raised disproportionately to 250 euros. With this, we are targeting the increase of rents which is also affecting students. This raises the maximum rate of BAföG assistance for students living away from home by over 9.7 percent from 670 to 735 euros per month.

2. Higher allowances for income from other sources

The allowance for income from other sources has also been raised by 7 percent. This increases the number of BAföG recipients by about 110,000 school and university students.
The additional income limit for BAföG recipients has been raised so that they can once again perform a so-called "mini-job" up to the current monthly amount of 450 euros without this affecting their BAföG entitlements. This is in line with the raised low income limit as set forth in social security legislation.

3. Higher allowances for the personal savings and assets of BAföG recipients

The personal allowance for any savings and assets of students eligible to receive BAföG has been raised from 5,200 to 7,500 euros. This ensures, for example, that BAföG recipients can own a car that is worth 7,500 euros maximum if they do not possess any other assets. Furthermore, the additional allowance for savings and assets has been raised from 1,800 to 2,100 euros for BAföG recipients who are legally obliged to provide maintenance for a spouse, partner or child.

4. Increased and harmonized childcare supplement

The childcare supplement for students with children has been raised substantially to a standard 130 euros per child (previously: 113 euros for the first child and 80 euros for each additional child). This makes it easier to reconcile study with family commitments.

5. Closing unintentional gaps in funding between two phases of study

The amendment closes unintentional gaps in funding, particularly during the transition from a bachelor's to a master's degree:
For the purpose of BAföG assistance, courses of study are now considered to end when the degree result is published and no longer when the final exams are taken. This extends the assistance by a maximum two months. Moreover, students are now entitled to assistance for a master's course from the moment they are granted provisional admission to this course and do not have to wait until they have completed their bachelor's degree.

6. Increased mobility and international opportunities

The funding entitlement has been extended to cover training abroad as well as non-German students. In addition, the existing requirement of four years' previous residence in Germany has been reduced to 15 months for holders of residence permits granted on humanitarian grounds and persons with tolerated status, so that such persons are not forced to abandon their training due to lack of funding.

7. Cutting red tape

For example, the Länder are obliged to introduce electronic application procedures by 1 August 2016 so that standardized web-based application forms can be made available on a national basis.

The amendments to the Federal Training Assistance Act which will come into effect in autumn 2016 will entail additional costs, which will have to be covered by the federal budget and will total about 500 million euros annually as of 2017, the first year in which the new provisions will be fully effective. The KfW banking group will provide 325 million euros towards the loan part (50%) of BAföG assistance for university students. The new reform package will thus be worth an additional 825 million euros provided annually for training assistance. School and university students who are eligible to training assistance will all benefit substantially.