In the past few months, tens of thousands of students have taken on debt or applied for government aid. As can be seen from a letter from the Federal Ministry of Education to the Education Committee of the Bundestag, more than 22,000 applications for student loans totaling EUR 641.6 million have been submitted to the KfW (Loan Agency for Reconstruction) since May. In addition, state emergency aid totaling around 17 million euros had been paid in more than 41,000 cases.
The Federal Ministry of Education had created two options for students in financial need: 100 million euros in emergency aid – money that does not have to be repaid – are available to those who can prove with bank statements that they are in a dire state because regular payments, for example from jobs have not been received recently. The state then pays 100 to a maximum of 500 euros per month and only for the months of June, July and August.
The second pillar is the KfW student loan, which also existed before the crisis, but has now been free of interest since May to March 2021. The ministry wrote that there had been a significant increase in applications compared to April.
Students would be “driven into the KfW student loan”
Emergency aid was requested around 8,000 times in June, according to the ministry, but only around half of the applications were approved. In 42 percent of the rejected cases, there was no pandemic acute emergency. In almost a third of the cases, documents were incomplete or illegible. With regard to the applications in July (as of July 27, a good 60,000), the ministry claims that the acceptance rate will be significantly higher.
“It is scandalous that every second student application for support in the pandemic crisis is rejected“, says the political spokesman for the Greens parliamentary group, Kai Gehring. “The modalities of the so-called bridging aid are obviously so miserable that students in emergency situations are forced into the KfW student loan to secure their livelihood.” Many would not get rid of this questionable debt burden until the end of their studies – and beyond.
Not through a pandemic – but before?
The Greens had repeatedly called for the Bafög to be opened to anyone who was in need of a pandemic. “The fact that the situation of many students was so precarious even before the crisis shows how necessary a fundamental reform of state student finance is,” says Gehring
The view that many students were financially bad even before the crisis is shared by the German Student Union, which is responsible for processing emergency aid applications with its local student unions. Secretary General Achim Meyer auf der Heyde had told the “Handelsblatt” that many students could not prove a pandemic-related emergency, does not mean that they were not in an emergency, but that they simply existed before.