The number of BAföG recipients has continued to decline. The traffic light coalition now wants to expand the circle of recipients with a reform and raise the BAföG rates. But social organizations are sounding the alarm and are calling for a much larger increase.
The opposition in the Bundestag has criticized the BAföG reform initiated by the traffic light coalition as insufficient. Monika Grütters (CDU) spoke of a “small throw” when the law was first discussed on Thursday. The higher BAföG rates would be completely eaten up by inflation, criticized the left education politician Nicole Gohlke. The education policy spokesman for the AfD parliamentary group, Götz Frömming, spoke of a “drop in the ocean”.
Speakers from the governing parties defended the project: “This first BAföG step is a giant step forward,” said Federal Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) about her law. Regarding the criticism, she said:
“Yes, every euro in your pocket is always good. But we need the right balance between those who pay and those who get something, and we have to keep rebalancing it.”
The SPD politician Lina Seitzel spoke of the beginning of a trend reversal. The downward spiral in BAföG is reversed again.
In the past ten years, the number of BAföG recipients has fallen continuously. After a high of 979,000 (including student BAföG) in 2012, it was only 639,000 last year. According to Deutsches Studentenwerk (DSW), one of the reasons for this is that the service has not been sufficiently reformed, expanded and adapted to new realities of life over the years.
The reform of the traffic light coalition now provides for a five percent increase in BAföG rates for the winter semester 2022/2023. The parental allowances are to increase by 20 percent, so that the circle of possible recipients will increase. Surcharges for rent, health and nursing care insurance and for childcare for students with children are also to be increased. In addition, the age limit of 30 years at the start of BAföG is to be raised to 45 years, so that studies can also be started later. The BAföG also increases for students and trainees.
The draft law will now be discussed further in the education committee. Student representatives are still hoping for changes before they are passed in the Bundestag. They demand higher BAföG rates with reference to inflation.
According to the plans of the traffic light coalition, further reform steps are planned for BAföG at a later date. According to the SPD, Greens and FDP, it should become “more independent of parents” in that the basic child security plan planned by the coalition will be paid directly to students in the long term – as the “basic basis for student financing”, as it is called.
Social organizations are critical
The Paritätische Gesamtverband, on the other hand, has called for a higher BAföG increase than planned by the traffic light coalition. The association justifies this with its own calculations, according to which 30 percent of all students in Germany are affected by poverty. In the case of students living alone, it was even 79 percent, the parity announced on Tuesday.
In Germany, poverty is determined by household income and the resulting opportunities for social participation. People who have to make do with less than 60 percent of the median income are considered poor or at risk of poverty.
The planned increase in BAföG rates by five percent will not achieve any structural improvement, the parity said. Given the current rate of inflation, the adjustment is not even enough to maintain purchasing power. The association’s requirements:
“It is therefore necessary to raise the BAföG requirement rates appropriately and to update them automatically and regularly.”
Student representatives and social organizations are still pushing for changes before the Bundestag decision, such as a clear increase in rates. Poverty among students is unfortunately a well-known phenomenon, said Matthias Anbuhl, General Secretary of the German Student Union, to the dpa news agency. The BAföG rates would have to increase significantly more than the federal government had previously planned – instead of the planned 449 euros to a good 550 euros.
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