BAföG FAQ

BAföG is the abbreviation for Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz (Federal Training Assistance Act). It provides funding fur students: they receive 50% of the aid as a state grant and the other 50% as an interest free loan. The loan must be repaid in several installments.

Most frequently asked questions about BAföG (current legal status: 27.07.20) considering the changes of the 26th BAföG amendment

The new allowances and “Bedarfssätze” (they determine how much money students need for their livelihood on average) will be taken into account for all approval periods starting from 1.8.2020. For approval periods still running, the changes will be taken into account from 1.10.2020.

Table of contents

1.     Who is entitled to BAföG?
2.     Which training courses are supported?
3.     Is the second educational path also supported?
4.     Where and how do I apply?
5.     Where can I get the application documents?
6.     When do I have to submit the application?
7.     May I submit the application even after x semesters or long after the start of my education?
8.     Is the support granted as a grant or a loan?
9.     Are student loans an alternative to BAföG?
10.  How long does it take until I receive BAföG?
11.  Is there any bridge money until BAföG is paid out?
12.  Is BAföG paid continuously or is it dependent on proof?
13.  How much BAföG can I get?
14.  How much money may I earn in addition to BAföG?
15.  I have a child, is this considered in BAföG?
16.  For how long do I receive BAföG?
17.  Up to what age can I receive BAföG?
18.  What can I do if the maximum period of funding is not sufficient?
19.  How and when must the loans be repaid?
20.  Is a master’s program also supported?
21.  Do I lose my BAföG entitlement if I change universities and/or my field of study?
22.  Is BAföG also available if I study/do a work placement abroad?
23.  I don’t have any contact with one of my parents, do I still have to declare their income?
24.  My mother/father has become unemployed this year and has no money to support me. What can I do?
25.  Can I be supported independently of my parents?
26.  My question is not listed here or not completely answered. I still have questions about related topics

1. Who is entitled to BAföG?

Whenever you apply for BAföG, the BAföG office must determine
·       whether this type of training can be supported (at all) and
·       whether you are entitled to receive funding for this (or further) education

The first question is in most cases quickly clarified. Nearly all courses of studies at public universities are eligible for funding as long as one is enrolled full-time and the course takes place face to face. However, if your courses take place online because of the Corona pandemic, you are still eligible for BAföG. In this case, you are not supported according to § 3 BAföG (which regulates the support of distance learning courses) but normally like all other full-time students according to § 2 (1) Nr. 6 BAföG.

To clarify if you are eligible, the following criteria are taken into account:
1.     your nationality
2.     the age limit
3.     whether previous completed, changed or abandoned training courses have already exhausted the claim.

1. Nationality:

All Germans, all spouses of Germans and all people without German citizenship who have a right of settlement or a right of permanent residence in Germany and their spouses are entitled to BAföG.

The same applies to family members of citizens of the EU entitled to freedom of movement and those EU citizens who are entitled to freedom of movement, who pursue education and gainful employment to such an extent that the training continues to be the main source of labor. Refugees with a residence permit according to § 25 (1) or (2) of the Residence Act are also included.

However, there are some exceptions. These can be found in §8 BAföG. If you need help, contact the AStA’s social counselling or the Studierendenwerk.

2. Age limit

What counts is how old you are at the beginning of your education (“the begin of your training period” in terms of the law). If you study at a university, this period starts on the first day of the month in which the lectures begin at the earliest, or on the day of your enrollment.

Those who have reached the age of 30 at this point only receive BAföG in a few exceptional cases. An age limit of 35 years applies exclusively to the beginning of a master’s program.

However, if you reach the age of 30 (35) during the course of your education, this has no effect on BAföG funding.

If someone is older than 30 (35) at the start of their studies, support can only be granted in exceptional cases that must be interpreted strictly. These include for example:

·       acquisition of the university entrance qualification on the second educational path, through entrance examination, through recognition of professional qualifications, or
·       by completing an initial course of study necessary for the current admission.
·       Parenting of own children (up to the age of 14)
·       Personal/family reasons

There are many other reasons, and, in most cases, it is at the discretion of the office whether such a reason is sufficient to justify an exception. (Thus, there are often individual case decisions). I can only recommend seeking assistance in these matters.

If you think that there might be the slightest chance of being eligible for BAföG, apply (and even if you won’t receive BAföG, at least you’ll know for sure). Try to go to different advisors for help, everyone can have a bad day, or they might misunderstand you. It’s about the financing of your studies after all.

If you are one of the exceptional cases, remember that the support is always provided independently of your parents if you have reached the age of 30 at the beginning of the training period for which support is requested. It is also completely independent of the course of your own employment biography.

Nr 3: Previous training/education

In this context, every previous training course that is eligible for BAföG is included, it does not matter if you have actually received BAföG or could not receive it for personal reasons.

Generally, everyone who attends an institution that offers vocational training or who is part of a training course in which the educational part is predominant is entitled to BAföG.

This does not apply to apprenticeships (Berufsausbildung) in companies. In this case, there is something similar to BAföG called Berufsausbildungsbeihilfe (BAB). Consequently, people studying at a so-called “Berufsakademie” can also receive funding. This means that apprenticeships are also considered when it comes to checking whether you can claim BAföG for further training.

For the vocational further training there is the Aufstiegsfortbildungsförderungsgesetz (AFBG) – colloquially known as “Meister – BAföG”.

However, AFBG and BAB do not support education at a university – you can only receive BAföG.

As a rule of thumb, no more than two vocational trainings (“schulische Ausbildungen”) can be supported by BAföG.

As always, there are exceptions and things can become very complicated. This goes beyond the scope of this FAQ and I’d like to suggest getting personal advice. Always make an application, even if you are in doubt. At least you’ll get a formal decision from the BAföG office, even if it is a rejection.

BAföG funding always presupposes that the students do not have sufficient means to cover the training and living costs themselves. Therefore, BAföG is paid as long as the income and assets of the students and the income of their spouse or parents do not exceed the respective allowances. Only in exceptional cases is BAföG paid independently of the parents.

2. Which training courses are supported?

All training courses at vocational schools, technical colleges, colleges, academies, and universities can be supported by BAföG. Since 1.8.2019 also study courses at “Berufsakademien”.

Training at general educational schools (e.g. grammar schools, “Gymnasien”) is only funded in exceptional cases.

If a Master’s program follows a Bachelor’s program and you do not have a university degree other than a Bachelor’s degree (such as Diplom or Magister, etc.) and the Master’s program is (not necessarily subject-related) based on a Bachelor’s program, this program will also be funded, provided you have not exceeded the age limit of 35 years at the start of the Master’s program.

Students who are enrolled in a part-time study program cannot be supported by BAföG.

In principle, however, a part-time study program – unlike a full-time study program – does not prevent the student from receiving unemployment benefits (ALG II or ALG I).
3. Is the 2nd educational path also supported?

The second educational pathway – i.e. the subsequent attainment of the general university entrance qualification (“Allgemeine Hochschulreife”) or the entrance qualification for studies at universities of applied sciences (“Fachhochschulreife”) after completing vocational training in the field of “adult education” – is a great asset in Germany. There are therefore numerous special regulations for this path regarding the age limit, BAföG, social security law and the number of training courses eligible for support.

In this context, you would be eligible for BAföG if you attended a “Kolleg” (or the equivalent Berufsoberschule in many German states), “FOS 13”, a “Fachoberschule” or  “FOS12 B” (which requires a completed vocational training program as an entry requirement) or a night school (“Abendgymnasium”) – in this case, however, only for the last three semesters of school.

Normally, if you are eligible for BAföG, you cannot receive unemployment benefits (ALG II/Hartz IV). However, anyone who attends a night school after the age of 30 and cannot receive BAföG because he or she does not meet the exceptions regarding the age limit of BAföG (§ 10 (3)), can receive ALG II. (Regulated in § 7 (6) No. 3 SGB II).

If you are older than thirty years and attend a college or a FOS 12 B (in each case full-time), it might be that you cannot receive BAföG or ALG II during this time because you do not fulfill the criteria regarding the age limit. This does not automatically mean, however, that you can never be supported again.

You might become eligible again if you acquire your university entrance qualification for the course of studies on the classical second education way – a Kolleg, a night school or FOS 12B (§ 10 (3) No. 1 BAföG), even if no BAföG was paid in the previous training because the age limit was exceeded.

The only decisive factor in this case is:
·       that the previously acquired university entrance qualification was necessary for the intended course of study and
·       you have also taken the first opportunity to start studying right after school.

You are not part of this exception if you have already had an entrance qualification for studies at universities of applied sciences (“Fachhochschulreife”) for a longer period of time and then attended a college or evening school and after obtaining the general university entrance qualification (“Allgemeine Hochschulreife”) started a course of study at a university of applied sciences. The study must then already require the general university entrance qualification to justify exceeding the age limit.

For example, someone who, after three years of vocational training at a vocational school, completes the entrance qualification for studies at universities of applied sciences and then studies for a bachelor’s and master’s degree, may be eligible for BAföG support for all four training phases.

4. Where and how do I apply?

The application for BAföG can be submitted to the responsible “Amt für Ausbildungsförderung” (Office for Educational Support). All public universities in NRW are assigned to a certain Studierendenwerk. The responsibility for your own university can be determined here.

For the funding of students of:
·       the University of Duisburg-Essen,
·       the Folkwang University (locations Essen/Duisburg) and
·       of the University of Applied Sciences Ruhr West (locations Bottrop/Mülheim)

this is the “Amt für Ausbildungsförderung” of the Studierendenwerk Essen – Duisburg, Reckhammerweg 1 – 45141 Essen.

In any case, use the official forms for the application. It does not matter if you use
·       this pdf, sign it and print it
·       the online application
·       the forms on paper

Do not use your own forms-this will only lead to a rejection because of a lack of cooperation.

BAföG is paid at the earliest for the month in which the application was made!

If you forgot to apply (e.g. right at the beginning of your studies in the first month) and still want to meet the deadline for the current month, you can apply informally. You can simply use this form.

In any case don’t forget your address, date and above all your handwritten signature!

The decisive factor here is the date of receipt of the letter by the office, not the day on which it was sent. In order to prove that the deadline has been met or to have the certainty that the request has reached the office, it is worth considering sending the request by registered mail (“Einschreiben”). (A cheap registered letter “Einwurfeinschreiben” is sufficient)

Only as a supplementary note:

·       An informal application must bear a handwritten signature. It can also be sent by e-mail, in which case the signed application must be scanned and attached to the e-mail.
·       If you send it via e-mail, you do not have any proof whether the e-mail arrived. You can request a confirmation of receipt (but it is not certain that you will receive one).
·       An informal request is also a request. Since the assets (marital status and debts) of the student are determined on the day the application is submitted, this is the day on which the informal application reaches the office. Any changes made after that date will only be taken into account in the next application.
·       If you start your studies in October, there is no reason to submit an informal application before October. The informal application does not replace the complete application and the office cannot process anything in advance if it has no documents. It is different if you want to use this to obtain a determination of the assets on a certain day.
·       After the informal application, you should immediately send all documents with the official forms and documents to the office. After all, you want to have the money as soon as possible. If you fail to do so, the BAföG office will write to you and ask you to do so within a certain period of time.

5. Where can I get the application documents?

The necessary application documents can be found in the displays in the lobbies of the cafeterias, for download on the homepage of the BAföG office of the UDE and on the website of the BMBF.

6. When do I have to submit the application?

Since the processing of the application takes some time, it is advisable to submit the application early (about 2 – 3 months before you start your studies). Of course, you should already know which university you would like to attend because this determines which office is responsible.

If the application is not complete, or if the office requests further documents, these can be submitted later. Since the BAföG claim exists at the earliest in the month of application, it should be submitted at the latest before the end of the first month of studies.

Furthermore, the entitlement to support (provided that the application is submitted in time) only begins at the beginning of the first month of studies. Enrollment is not sufficient for BAföG.

You can only start your studies once the lectures start. As a result, as a first-year student, you will receive the funding on the first day of the month in which the lectures start (§ 15b (1) BAföG).

7. May I also submit the application after x semesters or well after the start of my studies?

If you did not apply for BAföG during the first month of your studies, you can do so at any time and in any semester. However, BAföG is not paid retroactively, but only from the month in which the application was made.

This means that one cannot “save up” the money. And, just like those who continuously receive funding, you have to “justify” every drop-out and every change.
8. Is the support granted as a grant or loan?

Usually, 50 percent of the funding for a university education is provided as a grant and 50 percent as an interest-free loan.

Here’s some additional information:
·       The childcare supplement of 150 Euro/month per child is always paid as a grant, even if BAföG can possibly only be paid as a full loan.
·       If BAföG is paid within the framework of “support beyond the maximum period of funding” (according to § 15 (3)), due to delays caused by pregnancy, raising of children or disability, the support (during this period) is purely a grant.
·       In the case of study abroad, only the supplement to the tuition fees is paid as a full grant.
·       Students who have “lost” semesters due to multiple changes of subject will receive BAföG exclusively as a full loan for the last semester(s) of the new maximum period of funding. Whoever voluntarily pursues an education abroad during this time can still get “normal” AuslandsBAföG (i.e. 50% subsidy/interest-free loan).
·       If you make use of the “assistance for the completion of studies” (after the maximum period of funding), you may receive BAföG only as a full loan.

9. Are student loans an alternative to BAföG?

That always depends on the individual case and on the current interest rates. Very few people receive the maximum amount of BAföG. Not everyone completes a master’s degree after the bachelor’s degree – or receives BAföG after the standard period of study. Furthermore, if you receive BAföG, you do not need to pay the broadcasting fees in some cases. This means you can save up to 1050 Euro if you study for 10 semesters (Bachelor + Master).

If you cannot receive BAföG because your assets are too high, you have studied for too long, you are too old at the beginning of your studies of if your parents’ income is too high, this question does not arise at all. The only alternative is a scholarship, income from employment or a study loan.

You can find more information here:

For all others, who do have a real alternative

BAföG funding is available for students without children and without stays abroad (keyword: tuition fee subsidy up to 4600 euros) at 50 percent as a grant, at 50 percent as an interest-free loan. The interest-free loan is to be paid back 5 years after the end of the maximum duration of support for the bachelor’s degree (in simple terms) in equal installments of 130 euros each.

If you are not married and do not have children (in 2020) and earn less than 1267€ per month, you can (temporarily) be exempted from repayment. Assets are generally not considered here.

For students who have received BAföG for the first time after 1.9.2019: The loan must be repaid within 20 years.

No matter how much BAföG you received in different stages of your education (including possible stays abroad); due to the limitation in § 18 (12) BAföG you will pay max. 77 installments (that is max. 10.010 Euro according to the current legal status). Currently the monthly installment is 130 Euro (since 1.4.2020) (All loans received – from the time of the bachelor’s and master’s degree program- are considered as a single loan).

If you have (essentially) fulfilled your obligations to cooperate during the repayment period, the (remaining) loan will be waived after 20 years – even if you have been released from repayment for the whole time due to low income.

For students who have received BAföG before 1.9., other rules apply:

The loan has to be paid back within 20 years. Periods of exemption from repayment (due to low income) delay this period by a maximum of 10 years. (So that in these cases, it is to be paid back in max. 30 years)

The repayment is limited to 10,000 euros. Thus, one never repays more than 10,000 euros in BAföG loans (from all study periods – i.e. Bachelor + Master programs).

(The only exceptions are loans according to § 17 (3) BAföG. These are non-interest-bearing full loans that were paid due to multiple changes of subject or “assistance for the completion of studies”).

The BAföG repayment does not cause a Schufa (the German Society for the Securing of Loans) entry- not even if you would fall behind with the repayment. If you can pay back the entire loan in one go later, you can save up to 40%.

I don’t know of any credit that can compete with this (apart from being “sponsored by grandma”).

If someone receives only a small amount of BAföG – they might think differently of course.

10. How long does it take until I receive BAföG?

Since most courses begin in the fall, you can expect processing times of up to two months. Therefore, the application should be submitted early enough. The certificate of enrollment can be submitted later. If you want to avoid that the offices wait until the final certificates are available, it helps to add admission notices from the university to the application. Unfortunately, the main reason for a long processing time is still “scattiness” – many applications are filled out incorrectly or incompletely and it sometimes takes weeks until the office has the correct documents. If you are dependent on BAföG, please do spend a little time and effort on the application to fill it out completely and correctly. If you have questions, you can always ask me or the BAföG office during our office hours.

You can find a detailed explanation of how to apply, e.g. at “studies online”.

If you do not feel like filling out such forms at all, there are even (paid) agencies that will do this for you or offer help. One of these agencies is Studierenplus.
11. Is there any “bridge money” until BAföG is paid out?

If the initial application was submitted in time, all documents are complete and the delay in payment is only due to internal procedures within the office, a bridge loan from the Federal Employment Agency or the respective student union can help. You might need to take care of that yourself because the authorities usually do not offer this automatically.

Students who still live with their parents who are entitled to BAföG and have previously received ALG II, can usually continue to receive ALG II from the job center until the BAföG payment. You just need to notify the Jobcenter in time.

In the case of an initial application (or a longer interruption) the BAföG office has to pay a partial payment of 4/5 of the Bedarfssatz (see question 13) ten calendar weeks after the complete application has been submitted. Occasionally, the offices must be reminded of this obligation.

This also applies if, for example, the information provided by the parents is missing, but the students have demonstrably tried to persuade the parents to complete the form and have submitted an application for advance payment.

Without the application for advance payment, there is no advance payment

In these cases, the BAföG office will have to reject the application due to lack of cooperation.

If you have financial problems that endanger your studies, it would be advisable to contact the social counseling of the Studierendenwerk or the AStA as early as possible.

In addition, I would like to point out the possibility of covering the costs for the student ticket.

12. Is BAföG paid continuously or is it dependent on proof?

At the beginning of the fifth semester, students are required by the BAföG office to provide a proof of suitability (“Eignungsnachweis”) . This is a prerequisite for receiving (further) BAföG. The requirements for this proof are determined individually by the university or its departments for each course of study. The specific requirements for your course of study can be obtained from the responsible examination office in most courses of study. You should do this early enough to be on the safe side. Should your studies be delayed, e.g. due to pregnancy, childcare, disability, illness, care of relatives or committee work at the university, it is possible in individual cases to present the proof of suitability (with the requirements at the end of the 4th semester) later and to still receive payments. If this concerns you, please contact us (the AStA Social Counseling Service) early (i.e. at the latest during the 4th semester).

If illness is the reason for the delay, please see a doctor as soon as possible and ask for a doctor’s certificate. Especially if you make use of the possibility to deregister from an exam without giving reasons. Without the confirmation of a doctor, psychologist or therapist, no authority will believe that you are ill.

You can find further information here.

Please remember: There is no proof of suitability for the Master program.

13. How much BAföG can I get?

That is not easy to say. First of all, we would need to clarify whether the income of the parents (or/and one’s spouse) is taken into account and which allowances are granted for siblings. Then we would have to calculate whether own income or assets are taken into account.

These sums would be deducted from the individual requirement and would make up the payment amount in BAföG. As you can see, this is a highly individual matter. It is at least as complicated as our tax law which it is linked to.

It is easier to say how much it could be at the maximum. This sum is called the Bedarfssatz (Values for WS 2020/21). It takes into account how much students usually need for a living.

For those who live at home with their parents or in a living space owned by their parents, the maximum BAföG sum is composed as follows:

·       Basic requirement 427 Euro
·       Housing requirements 56 Euro
·       Health insurance surcharge 84 Euro
·       Health insurance supplement for voluntarily insured persons 155 Euro
·       Nursing care insurance surcharge 25 Euro
·       Nursing care insurance supplement for voluntarily insured persons 34 Euro

This adds up to a max Bedarfssatz:

·       483 Euro if you are still in your family’s insurance
·       592 Euro if you have your own health insurance
·       672 Euro if you are voluntarily insured

Those who live in their own living space, which is not owned by their parents, can receive the following maximum BAföG sum:

·       Basic requirement 427 Euro
·       Housing requirements 325 Euro
·       Health insurance surcharge 84 Euro
·       Health insurance supplement for voluntarily insured persons 155 Euro
·       Nursing care insurance surcharge 25 Euro
·       Nursing care insurance supplement for voluntarily insured persons 34 Euro

This adds up to a max sum:

·       752 Euro if you are still in your family’s insurance
·       861 Euro if you have your own health insurance
·       941 Euro if you are voluntarily insured

If you have a child who lives in your household and is under the age of 14, the monthly requirement rate is increased by the childcare supplement of 150 euros per month

14. How much money may I earn in addition?

If you are employed and a pupil or student, are not married and if you do not have children, you can earn 5,400€ (gross) during the 12-month approval period. Whether you earn the money in equal monthly amounts (i.e. 450 Euro/gross per month) or in a few weeks (e.g. during the semester break) is irrelevant for BAföG.

The tax-exempt amount for self-employed people is lower, as they do not have to consider the “Werbungskostenpauschale”.

Money earned from compulsory internships and practical semesters will be fully credited against BAföG!

More information can be found here:

Students are obliged to report their income to the BAföG office. This applies regardless of whether they are within the limits of the allowances or not. If you know your earnings approximately, you provide a prognosis in the application, or inform the office informally when you start working (this is called a “Änderungsanzeige”). At the end of the approval period, you give the office proof of your income.

There are no regulations about how many hours you can work in the context of BAföG. However, anyone who is regularly employed for more than 20 hours/week during the lecture period or has working hours that regularly and predominantly fall within the lecture period, risks two things. First, their income will be counted against the BAföG funding that they receive. Secondly, they might not receive BAföG for those periods in which they did not focus on their studies and could not participate properly. [A1]

In practice, in such cases, you will have to struggle primarily with the amount of the income or later with the proof of suitability rather than with the accusation of “non-participation in studies”. At this point I only wanted to warn you not to overdo it.

(Just as a hint – a voluntary internship, no matter how subjectively useful it may be, is considered as a period of gainful employment in BAföG)

It is in your own interest to report your income, as it is an administrative offence not to do so.

15. I have a child, is this considered in BAföG?

Yes, first of all in the maximum sum (Bedarfssatz) itself:

Since December 2007 there is a childcare supplement in BAföG. If you have a child who lives in your household and is below the age of 14, your Bedarfssatz is increased by the childcare supplement of 150 euros. Like the rest of BAföG, it is paid depending on your income and assets and depending on the income of your spouse and parents. For this purpose, it is sufficient to provide the relevant information on appendix 2 to form 1 when submitting the application, or to submit this information at the birth of the child.

You may also earn more money because of the child. If you have a child without their own income, you can earn 570 Euro more.

If your studies are delayed by pregnancy and/or childcare, then you can present the proof of suitability later and receive the payments after the maximum period of funding. In this case, the support is paid as a 100% grant (and not 50% grant/ interest-free loan, as it usually is).

Students with children may be able to claim further social benefits including housing allowance for the child, but also for the parents receiving BAföG or social benefits for the child, child benefit, supplementary child allowance, child-raising allowance, advance maintenance payments, etc.

16. For how long do I receive BAföG?

You can receive BAföG from the month in which lectures begin – provided you are enrolled and have submitted an application.

Lectures in the winter semester 2020/21 at the University of Duisburg – Essen will this year – unlike in previous years – not start in October but on November 2nd

This would mean that students could only receive BAföG from November this year.

On July 22nd, the BMBF decided that in this exceptional case, contrary to the legal requirement, BAföG entitlement would start from the beginning of the semester or the month of enrollment. For students at the University of Duisburg – Essen and the Volkwang Hochschule, this means that they can already receive BAföG for the month of October.

At universities of applied sciences, where the administrative semester always starts one calendar month before the start of lectures, this is well known: If, for example, the winter semester starts on September 1, but lectures do not start until October 14, then you cannot yet receive BAföG for September. Only for October – because “attending” the university (from a legal point of view) requires, in addition to a mere membership, participation (and the ability to participate). The first approval period in the study program will therefore run from October to August of the following year (only 11 months). The second approval period will then cover the normal 12 months (from September to August) – This is because vacation time surrounded by training periods is supported. (Legal basis is § 15 (1) in connection with § 15b Par. 1 BAföG)

Your claim expires if

a) the maximum period of funding ends
b) you drop out of university
c) you complete your studies

a) The maximum period of funding initially corresponds to the standard period of study.

Students whose examination regulations state that they have to learn one or more foreign languages (except German/English/French/Latin) even though these hours are not considered in the study regulations, receive an extension of the maximum period of funding of one semester.

Voluntary periods of study abroad of up to one year lead to a new determination (quasi “extension”) of the maximum period of funding. The maximum period of funding is always stated in the documents you receive.

The last month for which you receive funding is indicated as “month”/”year” – 9/2020 means that the last money transfer for the month of September will take place at the end of August 2020 because BAföG is always transferred on the last working day of the previous month.

b) If you drop out of university, the claim ends at the end of the month in which the decision was made not to continue/complete the study program or when it should have been made objectively.

c) The study program is (legally) completed at the end of the month in which the overall result of the final examination is announced – at the latest, however, at the end of the second calendar month following the month in which the last examination was taken.

You can be supported beyond the maximum period of funding if your studies have been delayed for “serious reasons”.

These include, among others:

Illness, raising of a child, disability, pregnancy, committee activity, and since 2019 also the home care of relatives

For further information, please see the leaflet “Booklet Förderungshöchstdauer” in German.

Afterwards – or if there are no reasons for “funding beyond the maximum period of funding”, one can still use the “assistance for the completion of studies” for up to one year (after § 15 Par. 3a BAföG). This is BAföG as a “full loan”. Formally, it is simply BAföG with a different type of support – it is therefore the same rules as usual. It is worth mentioning that in this time:

·       the childcare supplement (150 Euro/child) continues to be a pure grant
·       an exemption from the broadcasting contribution is still possible
·       in principle you are eligible for housing subsidy

For further information, see the leaflet “Ratgeber Hilfen zum Studienabschluss” in German.

17. Up to what age can I receive BAföG?

There is no legal age limit at which the eligibility for funding ends (in the sense of “expiration”). There is, however, an age limit, up to which one must have begun studying/the study period to be supported.

Those who have reached the age of 30 before the start of the studies will only receive BAföG in a few exceptional cases. If you turn 30 during your studies, this may influence your self-esteem, but there is no effect on  your BAföG claim. :)

An age limit of 35 years applies exclusively to the beginning of a master’s degree program. BAföG does not support pure further education masters, but only those that build on a bachelor’s degree. BAföG does not require that your BA and MA subjects are related (However, many universities require this for admission).

Even if you are 55 years old, you could still be eligible for funding. Of course, some criteria have to be met. First of all, it must be recognizable you can work in the profession after your studies. Besides, it must be clear that you couldn’t have started the studies (objectively) earlier in your life. This would mean that you have only just received a university entrance qualification through vocational qualification, a high school diploma or vocational baccalaureate on the second educational path.

In such cases, I would always advise you to contact me at an early stage in order to clarify whether such an exception can apply.

18. What can I do if the maximum period of funding is not sufficient?

First, in all cases listed below, a you must submit a “Wiederholungsantrag” (repeated application).

If you studied abroad or had to learn foreign languages for your studies (see question 16), this will lead to a corresponding extension or redefinition of the maximum period of funding.

If your studies have been delayed due to illness, raising of a child, disability, pregnancy, committee work, care of close relatives, etc., so-called “support beyond the maximum period of funding” can be granted in accordance with §15 (3) BAföG. This requires a justification in which it must be explained to what extent the reason(s) given are responsible for the delay. I urgently recommend that you seek advice before submitting such a justification.

If you need further information:

– For members of committees of the university in the leaflet “Ratgeber Gremientätigkeit” (The info is currently being revised. After completion you will find the link to the PDF here)
– In other cases, please refer to the booklet “Ratgeber Förderhöchstdauer”.

If you receive “support beyond the maximum period of funding” due to disability, pregnancy and raising of children, the support is not, as usual, paid at 50 percent as a loan/grant, but as a pure grant.

BAföG also offers “assistance for the completion of studies”. In this case, the support is provided exclusively as a full loan.

Prerequisites:

·       Students are admitted to the final examination and can complete their studies within 12 months after the admission to the final examination (In the case of modularized courses of study, the requirement regarding admission to the final examination is waived – in this case it is sufficient if they can complete their studies within one year of submitting their application).
·       Admission to the final examination (in all other cases, the application for assistance for the completion of studies) must be made at the latest four semesters after the end of the maximum period of funding or after the “funding beyond maximum period of funding” has expired.

Further information can be found in the leaflet “Abschlusshilfe” in German.

19. How and when must the loans be repaid?

The obligation to repay the loan begins, by law, five years after the end of the maximum period of funding of the last course of study in the first stage of training supported by a grant or loan. This is completely independent of whether or not you have received the notification of the Federal Office of Administration (BVA) mentioned below. If necessary, you must (should) register there yourself and ask for information.

It is advisable to open your own account with the BVA as early as possible (due to the “identification” process). There you can also view your loan account, notify them of changes of address and make applications.

The maximum period of funding generally corresponds to the standard period of study. It can be “extended” if you studied abroad or had to learn foreign languages during your studies (see question 16).

Approximately four and a half years after the end of the maximum funding period, the Federal Administrative Office in Cologne (not the BAföG office!) writes to you and sends you a notice of assessment and repayment.

They can only do this if they have your current address. If this is not available, a fee of 25 euros will be charged for the address inquiry. This can cause problems, especially if your payments are already delayed.

Therefore, from the first BAföG payment until the complete repayment of the loan, the current address should always be reported to the Federal Administrative Office (BVA). It is not enough to simply report it to the BAföG office. In case of doubt, contact the BVA directly and ask them “who to give the money to”.

If you have received BAföG for the first time after September 1st, 2019, it is vital to cooperate (“Mitwirkungspflicht”) with the Federal Office of Administration during the entire period. Only then can the complete outstanding loan be waived after a period of 20 years (calculated from the beginning of the repayment obligation).

“Mitwirkungspflicht” means:
·       communicate your address to the BVA while still studying,
·       notify them of all changes of address immediately,
·       do not miss any installment payment,
·       submit an application for exemption from repayment on time (before the installments are due),
·       inform them immediately about changes in income during the exemption period
·       and, if necessary, submit a “Wiederholungsantrag” on time after the end of the exemption period

20. Is a master’s program also supported?

Yes, if a bachelor’s degree program is followed by a master’s degree program based on the bachelor’s degree, the master’s degree is also eligible for funding. The subjects of your master and bachelor do not need to be related and they do not have to be consecutive. There may be a shorter or even longer period of employment in between (the limit here is only the age limit of 35 years regarding the start of the master’s program).

It is important that you have no other university degree than a bachelor’s degree. It does not matter if you have several bachelor’s degrees (even if after the first bachelor’s degree no further bachelor’s degree is usually supported). Likewise, a (not yet completed) Magister/Diplom/State examination does not influence your eligibility if you need support for your master’s program. After a completed master’s degree program, BAföG funding is no longer possible.

If you start a master’s degree after the age of 35, it is only eligible for funding in a few exceptional cases (see age limit).

If you have started the master’s program after reaching the age of 30 but before reaching the age of 35, funding is always provided independently of parents, even if you were still supported by your parents in the Bachelor’s program and have never been employed for a longer period of time. (This results from the regulations in § 10 (3) BAföG in connection with the rule of § 11 (3) Nr. 2 BAföG).

Be careful if you want to change your subject – You can only do that because of “irrefutable reasons”. Experience shows that only few students can change because of these reasons.

If you are planning to do something like this, do get advice beforehand.

So-called “important reasons” such as lack of aptitude or change of mind are no longer sufficient in this case.
Those who have been (provisionally) admitted by the university to study for a master’s degree, although the bachelor’s degree has not yet been completed, can also receive BAföG (under reserve) for the master’s degree. This only applies if the provisional admission can be converted into a final admission during the course of one year.

If that does not happen, the entire amount of BAföG received in the master’s program must be paid back immediately and without delay to the responsible BAföG office.

This is only possible for those courses of study that provide for provisional admission in their examination regulations. If a faculty decides otherwise in their examination regulations, then unfortunately you cannot use this BAföG regulation.

21. Do I lose my BAföG entitlement if I change universities and/or my field of study?

In principle, you can receive BAföG for attending a specific course of study at a specific university. If this changes, you are obliged to inform the BAföG office immediately. If you attend multiple courses of study, this also applies to the change of individual subjects.

If you keep the course of studies and only change the university, only your BAföG office changes. You have to let them know of this change immediately.  The office will then check whether it you also changed your subject. If you didn’t, you do not need to give them a written explanation. The office will treat you as if you simply continue your old studies somewhere else. There might be some disadvantages, e.g. the BAföG office might classify you into a higher semester (independently of what your new university does). This can cause problems concerning the proof of suitability and the duration of funding.

If you change the field of study and/or the university, the following applies:

Students may change their field of study if they have an important reason and if they do not lose more than three semesters. Consequently, if you want to change during your fourth semester, it must be possible to be placed in the second semester.

Important reasons would be, for example, the realization that one is not suitable for the course of studies because one cannot pass a certain exam despite increased efforts (“lack of aptitude”) or the realization that one has made a mistake in choosing the “right” course of studies (or choice of subjects) (“change of inclination”).

In both cases you should act as soon as you become aware of this circumstance – but at least seek advice and ask about possible consequences. The money you receive during the months after you should have made the decision objectively, must usually be repaid.

If you change your field of study more than once in the course of your education, you “lose” semesters. This “loss” leads to the fact that BAföG for the new field of study is paid until the end of the maximum period of funding (standard period of study), but in the last semester or semesters (corresponding to the number of “lost” semesters after the first change) only as an interest-bearing bank loan.

For students changing their subject for the first time until the beginning of the third semester, the change of subject does usually not need to be justified. In all other cases, the change must always be justified in writing. You need to explain the primary reason why you cannot be expected to continue with the previous course of study and why you could not have known this earlier.

If you lose more than three semesters when changing your field of study, then an “important” reason is no longer sufficient.

You now need to have a so-called “irrefutable” reason. These are mainly reasons of occupational disability and “stuff like that”.

If you do not have such a reason, no further education can be supported by BAföG.

Anyone who has lost his or her eligibility for funding due to a change of subject in the bachelor’s program can (except in the city-state of Bremen) receive funding again in the subsequent master’s program.

In a master’s program, a change can only be made for an irrefutable reason.

Therefore, you should not rush into a Master’s program that you don’t really want to study – for example, to bridge a gap in order to keep your student status, to continue using the semester ticket or to obtain individual credits. If you then enroll in your preferred master, you can lose your ability for funding for good.

If you want to know exactly, contact me during my office hours and/or request the 24-page reader on “Fachwechsel/Abbruch in Verbindung mit BAföG BAföG”. (The information is currently being revised and adapted to the current state of jurisdiction. After completion you will find the link to the PDF here)

22. Can I receive BAföG if I study/do a work placement abroad?

BAföG can also be paid if you study abroad or if you do a work placement abroad. In the case of work placement, however, it is limited to compulsory work placements and their minimum duration. Voluntary work placements are not supported by BAföG. It does not matter if the work placement needs to be completed abroad or not but only if it is compulsory in general.

In principle, two types of study visits can be funded:

Only in the EU (including Switzerland) can a complete course of study from the first semester onwards be funded. One can continue one’s studies at any time in a different country of the European Union. A change of universities in the EU is not treated any differently than a change of universities in Germany.

It is also possible to study abroad in a country within or outside the European Union for up to one year if you study in Germany (or in a country of the EU and Switzerland). You can only study in a country outside the EU if you have studied this subject for more than one year in the EU (or Switzerland).

It would be possible to receive BAföG for example if you:

·       start your studies in the Netherlands and spend 1 or 2 (supplementary) semesters abroad in Indonesia
·       study in Germany for three semesters and then continue and finish your studies in France. If it was a bachelor’s degree, you could then complete the master’s degree in Ireland, for example. During your BA and MA, you could a semester abroad (max. 1 year each) in any country. You can see, (at least theoretically) many things are possible.

In this case and during this time, only special BAföG foreign offices are responsible. The responsibility of the domestic office is suspended during this time. (§ 45 (4) BAföG) and it may therefore not support you at all. You also have no right to vote between InlandsBAföG (“domestic BAföG”) and Auslands-BAföG (“foreign BAföG”) (Of course, there are exceptions).

If you simply go abroad and continue to receive domestic BAföG, the domestic office will have to reclaim the money later as soon as they lean about it.

You need to apply for BAföG on time because BAföG is available in the month of application at the earliest. (§ 15 (1)). You would be left completely “empty-handed” as far as the funding of your stay abroad is concerned if you don’t apply at the office for Auslands-BAföG. If you don’t notify the office, you will be faced with additional reclaims and in some cases, it will be counted as an administrative offense.

Auslands-BAföG is one of the focal points of my AStA social counseling. It is worthwhile to see me early during office hours if you are planning something like this in your studies. I have written a reader of about 40 pages on the subject of Auslands-BAföG, in which most of the questions arising from the counselling are taken up.

(This information is currently being revised. Sometime in August the new forms will have to be used. Since there are numerous explanations in this reader for filling out the individual gaps, this will have to be adapted. After completion you will find the link to the PDF here – but you can also order the “old” Reader by mail from me)
23. I don’t have any contact with a parent, do I still have to declare their income?

Yes – without the parents’ details (on form 3) the application is not complete. It would ultimately have to be “rejected” due to lack of cooperation.

It is complete, for example, if all other documents are available and a claim for advance payment (“Vorausleistungsantrag”) has been made against the parent who refuses to cooperate.

It is also complete if you can convincingly demonstrate that you do not know the name and or the whereabouts of a parent and that cannot get this information by simply asking relatives or acquaintances or at the youth welfare office (so there is no “last known address”). In this case, the BAföG office takes over the further research – if the research is unsuccessful, one will be treated as if this parent did not exist. This can take a while: in case of (presumed) residence abroad, 2 months are reasonable. During this time, BAföG cannot be paid (but it will be paid retroactively later), so in such cases you should submit your application as early as possible.

Occasionally it might be that

·       you know where your parents live but they are (politically) prosecuted and enforcing your maintenance claim could cause considerable danger for them
·       you yourself are at risk if your parents find out your whereabouts

In both cases, there is the possibility that according to § 11 (2a) BAföG is paid as if you had no parents anymore. It can be difficult to explain these circumstances (and to make them credible). In such cases you should contact the BAföG office or the social counseling of the Studierendenwerk, explain your unusual situation and clarify the further procedure – in particular the protection of confidence – in advance.

Normally, the income of both parents is used to calculate the amount of funding, since BAföG is paid subordinately to the parents’ maintenance obligations.

The income of stepparents is not considered unless you have been adopted. Due to the maintenance obligation of the newly married parent towards the stepparents (and possibly children adopted into the household), the birth parents are granted an allowance in income. The amount of this allowance depends on the income of the stepparents or their children living in the same household – indirectly, their income plays a role in the amount of their own BAföG.

If the parents (or one of the parents) refuse to provide information (i.e. to fill in form 3) or to pay maintenance, the only way out is the BAföG – Vorausleistungsverfahren (“advance payment procedure”).

The application can be made with form 8 or informally. You can also do this in person at the BAföG office. In this case, however, you must make sure that Form 8 is submitted within the current approval period. My recommendation is to use form 8 – then you can’t forget anything.

Furthermore, the students are expected to make their own initial efforts. This means writing to the parents and asking them to fill in the forms. If the address is not known or the parents do not answer, the office can then take further steps in the “Vorausleistungsverfahren”. It is therefore necessary to be able to provide the office with evidence of your own efforts later on.

This can be done for example by writing to the parents (to their last known address) and giving them a concrete date (e.g. by xx.yy.) and a reasonable period of time (e.g. 2 to 3 weeks) to fill in and return form 3 (information from the parents). This will be sent by registered mail. If there is no reply within the set time limit, the letter will be returned as undeliverable or with the note “Acceptance refused”. Please attach a copy of your letter and the postal notes to form 8 and submit the request for advance payment immediately.

An application for advance payment always has certain pitfalls – since it is also determined whether and to what extent the continuation of your studies is endangered by the refusal of a parent to pay or provide information. Non-cash benefits (e.g. accommodation and food) and child benefit passed on to the children are also included in the consideration. It is therefore always advisable to seek advice in advance on the subject of “advance payment” in order to better assess the consequences. You can also get this clarified if you visit the AStA social counseling.

24. My mother/ my father became unemployed this year and has no money to support me. What can I do?

Normally, the income of the calendar year before last (with regard to the start of an approval period) is taken as a basis for calculating the amount of support for parents (and spouse), as the tax assessment notice is usually already available for that year.

However, if the income in the current approval period is likely to be significantly lower – as in the case of unemployment, pension, etc. – the “new” income of the respective parent (spouse) can be taken into account in the approval period by means of a so-called Aktualisierungsantrag (“update application”) (Form 7). The application cannot be submitted by the parents – only by the students themselves. It can refer to both parents or one parent. It is up to the students to decide whether to submit it – there is no obligation to do so.

The approval period refers to the period during which a decision is made on the entitlement to BAföG. Generally, it runs for 12 months. At our university it usually runs from October to the end of September of the following year. An application for an update can only be submitted for current or future approval periods.

In this case, the average income of the calendar years affecting the approval period is taken as a basis. That is:

·       It is usually a “forecast” of the income
·       All income – including compensation payments – during the months of the relevant calendar years influences the “average” income during this period, including the income before the beginning of the approval period

First, the office checks whether this leads to a higher BAföG payment. It must be rejected if this should not be the case.

If, however, the update shows that there is a higher income – e.g. a severance pay that has been paid for the first time, a higher income than stated, a lower tax burden (= higher disposable income) due to a decision of the tax office – then you cannot take it back.

In these cases, BAföG is paid “under reserve”. This means that it is not certain whether the amount will remain as it is. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the amount of the grant is correct and final.

The final amount of funding can be determined at the earliest when the tax assessment notices of the corresponding calendar years are available to the BAföG office. This can take several years and then lead to a subsequent payment or a reclaim. This always affects the students themselves.

Therefore, the Aktualisierungsantrag should always be used carefully. If you are not quite sure, you should seek advice beforehand.

25. Can I receive support independent of my parents?

The BAföG law does not use the term “independent of parents”. But since it is a common phrase, I’ll use it.

You can be supported temporarily or permanently without taking into account the income of the parents or one parent (“parent independently ”):

·       if (and as long as) the whereabouts of the parents are unknown
·       if (and for as long as) the parents are legally prevented from paying maintenance
·       if you have reached the age of 30 at the start of your training,
·       if you were employed for a total of five years after the age of 18 when you started your studies (training periods/”Ausbildungszeiten” do not count)
·       if at the start of your studies, after completion of a three-year vocational training course (“Berufsausbildung”), you have been employed for at least three years. Shorter training periods can be compensated by longer periods of employment, but not vice versa.

These rules of BAföG (in § 11 (2) und (3)) are not identical with those of the maintenance law. It is quite possible that you do not fulfill the BAföG requirements yet, and still have no maintenance claim against the parents according to the Bundesgesetzbuch. The gap between the two is closed by the advance payment procedure in BAföG.

In many cases, however, it is not that easy to determine whether a claim for maintenance still exists. Because, in contrast to BAföG, there are no general rules in maintenance law, even if you might get this impression from some pages on the Internet.

At this point I would like to point out a special feature because it causes problems in everyday life, and the information from the authorities about this can sometimes be wrong (because it is a rare and unusual case).

If you are enrolled in a bachelor’s program (the same applies to Diplom/Magister/Staatsexamen) and you are older than 30 at the start of your studies, you can only receive BAföG in certain cases (regulated in § 10 paragraph 3 BAföG).

However, if these exceptions apply, funding is always “parent-independent” – completely independent of one’s own curriculum vitae and periods of employment.

However, the age limit for the master’s program is 35 years.

So anyone who begins the Master’s program after the age of 30 and before the age of 35 will always receive support independent of their parents, even if they have never been employed and were still supported by their parents in the Bachelor’s program.

If you have any questions on this topic, please contact the AStA Social Counseling Services early on.

26. My question is not listed here or not completely answered. I still have questions about related topics.

No problem, that’s what the AStA’s social counseling service is for.

Just come by during my office hours.

Well. Because of “Corona” it is only possible by phone and mail. But my experience since March has shown that this works quite well.

I focus on financing your studies. That concerns not only BAföG, but also questions about the social security, housing subsidy, child benefit, parents’ money, ALG II and ALG I requirement for students and many other topics more. The leaflets mentioned in the text are already available as PDFs in German; they will be successively prepared and then posted here on the AStA.

I too am not infallible…hence the request:

Critical hints (especially regarding mistakes and wrong spelling, which unfortunately cannot always be avoided) as well as suggestions for changes and improvements, also regarding possible future additions, are always welcome. Your feedback and questions will be incorporated into this FAQ and will keep others from making mistakes.

Best,

Udo Gödersmann
AStA – Social counseling
E – Mail: sozialberatung@asta-due.de

It is an open office hour – an appointment is not necessary. The consultation takes place also in the lecture-free time as well.

I will also always try to call back everyone who called during the office hours.

Please be patient with the e-mails. They will all be answered, but this can take a few days depending on workload during the telephone consultation.

If something goes wrong and you don’t hear from me – just ask again.