It can be roughly divided into three categories: vocational training, schooling and academic study.
Vocational training grants
The promotion of trainees and of those who participate in pre-vocational training schemes is done by way of vocational training grants (known as Berufsausbildungsbeihilfe–BAB). Under Book III of the Social Code, vocational training grants may be paid under the following conditions:
- vocational training is commenced either with a company or a training institute
- participation in a pre-vocational training scheme offered by the unemployment office
Vocational training grants are just that, grants and not loans, which means there is nothing to repay to the unemployment office when training is completed.
What do they cover?
A course of training leading to an officially recognised vocational qualification may be funded when the necessary vocational training contract has been entered into. It makes no difference whether the vocational training is received in a business or in a training institute (e.g. in a training workshop). An entitlement to a vocational training grant only exists for initial vocational training; funding for a second period of training is only possible in exceptional circumstances, i.e. when a trainee has had to end initial vocational training prematurely for reasons of good cause (e.g. illness).
Apart from vocational training, participation in pre-vocational training schemes may also be funded. These are courses offered by the unemployment office for actual vocational or occupation-oriented knowledge and skills.
Funding may be made available for vocational training or for training schemes that are partly held abroad – but for no longer than a year. Vocational training that is received solely abroad may be funded if it is equal to vocational training received in a business within Germany, is recognised by the responsible agency (chambers) and the training abroad is particularly beneficial in attaining the vocational training objective.
Who can claim?
Vocational training grants are available to:
- Those participating in pre-vocational training schemes
Vocational training grants for trainees
Trainees are only entitled to a vocational training grant if they live away from their parental home. However, an exception is made for young people who are disabled: they still receive benefits even if they live with their parents.
Pre-Vocational Training Schemes
Those participating in pre-vocational training schemes are generally entitled to a vocational training grant even if they still live with their parents.
How are vocational training grants calculated?
– offsettable income
= vocational training grant
The total entitlement is based on fixed lump-sum allowances:
- Cost of living
- Other vocational training-related expenses
- Travel costs
The cost of living allowance is subject to different rates for trainees receiving vocational training grants and those participating in pre-vocational training schemes, and also depends on personal circumstances (whether you have your own place to live or you live in a boarding house with or without meals).
Once your basic entitlement has been calculated – and certain exemption limits have been taken into account – any offsettable income is deducted. Income is not offset for those participating in pre-vocational training schemes, i.e. the basic entitlement is paid out.
For trainees, offsetting of income is done in accordance with the Federal Education Assistance Act (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz—known as BaföG): your personal income and wealth, and also those of your parents and spouse, will be offset against your basic entitlement if they exceed a certain exemption limit.
How to claim – what and when?
Vocational training grants may only be paid out when they have been applied for. The earliestdate of payment is the date of application. An application may be made during a career guidanceappointment at the employment office responsible for your (original) place of residence. Paymentceases when your training is completed (the day of the final examination) or when your prevocationaltraining is completed. In cases of illness, vocational training grants will be paid out fora maximum of a further three months.
The law governing your entitlement to educational assistance, how it is paid out, and so on, is the Federal Education Assistance Act (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz—known as BAföG, which has become the popular name for the assistance itself). The information that follows is based on the law as amended by the Education Assistance Reform Act of 19 March 2001.
Benefits and conditions
Educational assistance is intended to provide you with enough to live on and to cover the cost of your education. Your financial needs will depend on what kind of education you are receiving, and on where you are living. There are different rates of BAföG for people attending school and for university students.
Your personal income and wealth, and also those of your parents and spouse, will be offset against your basic entitlement if they exceed a certain exemption limit. How high the exemption limit will be depends on your marital status, whether or not you have children, and how large your family is.
There are also a number of exceptions to the general rule:
- You will only be entitled to BAföG in special cases if you are over 30 years of age when you begin a particular phase of your educational career.
- If you attend formal evening school (Abendgymnasium) or an adult education college (Kolleg), only your own personal income and wealth will be taken into account. This still applies if you are over 30 when you begin the educational phase you have applied for assistance with. Your parents’ or spouse’s income will not have any influence in this case.
- This also applies if you were in gainful employment for a certain period of time before beginning the educational phase for which you have applied for assistance with.
In some cases parents fail, wholly or partly, to pay the parental contribution which has been offset against the level of BAföG awarded to an applicant. In this event, you can apply to receive your assistance payment in advance without any parental contribution being deducted.
What form does assistance take?
If you are attending a school of any form, you will receive your BAföG in the form of a grant, which you will not be required to repay. If you are a student, unless your course fits into one of the categories set out below, you will receive half of your BAföG as a grant and the other half as an interest-free loan from the government. If you belong to one of the exceptional categories below, you will receive a bank loan on which interest must be paid.
As an exception to this rule, the following payments are made entirely as non-repayable grants:
- Supplementary payments provided for courses and placements (internships) abroad during the normal period over which BAFÖG is available, as stipulated by the regulations on supplementary allowances for study abroad.
- Any assistance paid to you for up to ten years beyond the maximum support period if the delay is a result of your being disabled, pregnant, or needing to take care of and to bring up a child (on application).
Your BAföG will be paid in the form of an interest-bearing bank loan in these cases:
Once you have exceeded the maximum support period, including the assistance provided for bringing your studies to a successful conclusion (Studienabschlussförderung), unless you qualify for one of the exceptions described above.
- For the resulting additional period if the duration of your education increases because you have dropped out of a course or changed to a different one for good reasons that cannot be refused.
- For an in-depth or supplementary training course lasting a maximum of two years and begun before 1st January 1997, if you have already completed a university course.
- For an additional university course, of unlimited duration, if it supplements a course you have already completed and is a necessary legal requirement for entry into your chosen career.
- For one single further course of study if your special circumstances are such that your study objectives justify it.
Any portion of your BAföG paid out to you as a loan will have to be repaid later on. You have up to 20 years to repay either the government or bank loan forming part of your BAföG. If you have received both government and bank loans, your repayment period rises to 22 years.
Are you entitled to BAföG?
You will be entitled to receive BAföG if:
- You are a student at any form of university, advanced vocational college (Höhere Fachschule), or academy of arts
- In certain specified cases, you are a pupil at an upper secondary school (such as a Hauptschule, Realschule, Gesamtschule or Gymnasium) or vocational school, in Year 10 (under the German system) or above, or if you do not yet have any vocational qualification and are attending technical or senior technical school classes (Fachschule or Fachoberschule), and it is impossible for you to live at your parents’ home for one or more qualifying reasons
- You do not yet have any vocational qualification and are attending a course at least two years in length at a technical or vocational school in order to obtain such a qualification
- You are attending formal evening school (such as an Abendhauptschule, Abendrealschule or Abendgymnasium) or an adult education college (Kolleg)
- You are attending a school of vocational development (Berufsaufbauschule)
- You are attending classes at a technical or senior technical school for which a previous vocational qualification is an admission requirement
Do you need any further information? If so, please feel free to contact the educational assistance office responsible in your case.
If you are applying for assistance for your school attendance, this will usually be a department of the municipal offices in the city or district (Kreis) where your parents live.
If you are studying at a state university, you should contact the educational assistance office at the university itself (usually run by the Studentenwerk, which provides facilities and welfare assistance for students).
Information on BAföG, application forms and an entitlement calculator are available on the Internet: www.bafoeg.bmbf.de.
On written application to the Federal Office of Administration (Bundesverwaltungsamt, 50728 Köln; web site: www.bildungskredit.de), students can receive a limited term low-interest loan in place of or in addition to BAföG, to support them during the advanced stages of their vocational or university training. The loans enable non-BAföG recipients to attend a course of study or to complete their studies in less time, and help BAföG recipients with out-of-theordinary items of expenditure not covered by BAföG, such as special study materials, excursions and course fees. The loans are paid out at EUR 300 a month up to 24 months. There is no legal entitlement to an education loan.
What to do
You must apply for your BAföG in writing to the appropriate educational assistance office (Amt für Ausbildungsförderung). You will need to fill in the forms provided by the office and to supply the items of proof required. Please bear in mind that it may take quite a long time to process your application, so be sure to send it in as early as possible.
This article has been published by the Bundesministerium für Gesundheit und Soziale Sicherung, more information under www.bmgs.bund.de.