Bafog increase and remission of residual debt: these are the government’s plans for students

Students and schoolchildren to receive significantly more bafog as of mid-2019. The federal government plans to spend more than 1.8 billion euros on a corresponding reform by 2022. This is the result of a draft law by education minister anja karliczek (CDU), which was made available to the german press agency in berlin. The plans are the subject of a hearing of associations at the federal education ministry in berlin this friday. Critics say they are not ambitious enough.

The maximum rate of the total demand is to rise from 735 euros in two stages from the winter semester of 2019 to a total of around 850 euros by 2020. Students who do not live with their parents and who have their own health insurance will receive it.

Federal government – this is the planned reform

The increase is made up of three components: the basic allowance is to rise by five percent and then by another two percent. The housing supplement is to be raised disproportionately – from 250 to 325 euros for students who do not live with their parents. Health and long-term care insurance premiums are also to increase.

More young people are also to benefit from bafog. In return, the tax-free allowances for parents' income are to be raised by a total of 16 percent in three steps by 2021.

The allowance for personal assets is to be raised from the current 7500 euros to 8200 euros in 2020. The allowances for trainees with maintenance obligations to their own spouses, partners and children are to rise from the current 2100 to 2300 euros.

Those who have been challenged should also not have to fear lifelong debt. The remaining debt is to be forgiven for those who, despite their best efforts, are unable to repay the bafog loan within 20 years due to poor economic circumstances. Already, they had to pay only half of the money and a maximum of 10.000 euros, to be paid back in monthly installments.

Instead of paying out the bafog as an interest-bearing bank loan from forderbank k, the state is to provide it as an interest-free loan starting in the winter semester of 2019/2020.

Bafog increase: these are the reasons for the reform

The number of bafog recipients has been falling for years. In 2017, according to the federal statistical office, 225,000.000 schoolchildren and 557.000 students the state education requirement – a total of about 41.000 or five percent less than in the previous year. Since more was paid out per capita, however, government spending on this increased by around 70 million to 2.9 billion euros.

Five years earlier, 308,000 schoolchildren and 671,000 students received bafog. In view of this significant decline, the CDU, CSU and SPD agreed in the coalition agreement to "achieve a trend reversal by 2021.

Reactions to the reform plans

According to his own statements, achim meyer auf der heyde, secretary general of the german student union, can imagine that more young people will actually benefit from the bafog again as a result of the reform. "But greater improvements are needed for a real turnaround", he told the german press agency.

Meyer auf der heyde criticized in particular what he considered to be an insufficient increase in the requirements rates. The basic allowance must not only rise from 399 to 427 euros, but must also be between 500 and 550 euros to cover the need. In addition, the higher flat-rate housing allowance is unlikely to be enough for first-year students in particular when it comes to new rentals, he said. The federal government, moreover, should not hang the rising welfare bill on the coarse end of the stick. "Because landlords might be encouraged to take higher rents that way."

Meyer auf der heyde also criticized the government for not wanting to present its next bafog report in the fall as previously planned, but only in 2021. On the basis of the developments in prices and income outlined therein, the free allowances and rates could be increased – an earlier further increase in the rates is now in danger of being cancelled. Meyer auf der heyde, on the other hand, buried, among other things, the planned three-stage increase in the free carry.

Green education expert kai gehring accused union and SPD of having pushed the bafog into an all-time low through numerous no-rounds and inaction. "With this amendment, minister karliczek is also not making up for the failures of the last few years", gehring told the dpa. "The negative spiral at bafog should finally be broken", he demanded. Fordsatze und freibetrage had to increase by at least ten percent for the next semester. The housing requirement must be staggered regionally. Bundestag must make plans for "half-baked reform" a thing of the past real progress must now be made.

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