Studying as a Refugee – Costs, Funding Programs, Counseling
An academic education opens a lot of doors and career opportunities in Germany. If you are a refugee and you are planning to study in Germany, one of the most important issues is the study financing. Additional to your cost of living, e.g. rental cost for apartment, food, clothing, insurance, there will be costs for the studies itself. But there are several ways to manage and optimize financing your studies – Starting from student jobs and funding programs (public and private) to student loans.
Learn about the costs for studies in Germany and about the most important funding programs. All funding programs described on this page are available for refugees.
How much does studying in Germany cost?
Studying at state universities in Germany is cheaper than in many other European countries. Fees are decided by the federal states and universities. The costs of the studies include, in particular, the semester fees, administration fees and, in some cases, tuition fees.
Since 2014, there is no general tuition fee for any first degree courses (bachelor) or consecutive („follow-on“) master degree courses in state universities in any state in Germany. This also applies to students from non-EU countries.
Only in Baden-Württemberg was a tuition fee for non-EU citizens introduced for the winter semester 2017/2018, amounting to 1,500 euros per semester. In Saxony higher education institutions can decide whether to charge a tuition fee from students from non-EU countries.
For long-term students, a second degree program as well as extra-occupational study courses or non-consecutive Master’s programs, tuition fees of about 500-650 Euro per semester may be charged in some states.
The semester fees are determined by the respective university and must be paid by all students. With the semester fees, you
- support the student services (“Studentenwerke”) (50 to 100 Euro) and
- the student representation (“Studierendenvertretung”) (10 to 15 Euro) and
- pay for the semester ticket for the use of local transport such as bus, train and tram (60 to 250 Euro)
Overall, depending on the university, you have to pay about 100 to 400 euros per semester as a semester fee.
In some federal states, students have to pay an administration fee once per semester. The cost is usually around 50 to 75 euros. Only in Saxony it is between 25 to 150 euros.
Study funding as a refugee – How to find financial support
In Germany, students have various opportunities to get supported with the financing of their studies. These support opportunities are called „grants“ or „funding programs“. Funding can be provided through state programs or through foundations and private sponsors. Many of these grants are also available to people with refugee status. In the case of a grant, the student receives financial or non-material support from the sponsor. A repayment is either very discounted or not required at all.
In principle, grants are awarded either as part of a heavily subsidized loan (BAföG, student loans), as financial subsidies and / or study accompanying programs (scholarships).
The most important state aid for student financing is the so-called BAföG. This is an interest-free loan, of which only half must be repaid after graduation. The BAföG is the most frequently awarded study grant in Germany.
In addition, there is the opportunity to receive funding through scholarship programs. This support can also be granted together with the BAföG. Grants from scholarships do not have to be paid back after graduation, but a selection process is used to determine who is eligible for funding.
The third option are student loans. These can be a viable additional option if the BAföG is insufficient. For refugees there is the possibility to use the subsidized „Education Loan of the Federal Government“ (Bildungskredit der Bundesregierung). This is a very affordable student loan offered by the Federal Administration Office and KfW Bank.
We will show you which of the different funding schemes are available for people with refugee status and present the most important government and private funding programs.
BAföG for Refugees
Through the support under the Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG), the Federal Government financially supports pupils and students during their education. Supported students receive a monthly amount and have to pay back no more than half of the support after the end of the funding period. The other half is a grant from the state. The BAföG is the most important form of state funding with more than half a million funded students in 2016. Under suitable conditions, the BAföG funding can also be awarded to refugees.
The amount of the subsidy is income-dependent. The maximum BAföG rate for students has been 735 euros per month since 1 August 2016. The average student funding rate is about 460 euros per month.
- One half of the total funding is a subsidy from the state.
- The other half is a loan without interest and must be repaid.
- A maximum of 10,000 euros must be repaid, even if the loan amount is higher.
- The repayment does not begin until five years after the end of the maximum funding period.
- The repayment installments amount to 105 euros per month and are paid every three months (315 euros).
- The repayment can be interrupted if the income is too low.
- If you repay the repayment amount in a single payment, you will receive another discount of 8% to 50.5%. The exact amount of the discount depends on how much the repayment amount is.
- Refugees also have to repay the loan if they return to their country of origin after their studies.
With BAföG, university studies can generally be funded until the end of the maximum support term. The maximum support term usually depends on the standard period of study of the chosen study program.
- Recognized persons entitled to asylum, recognized refugees under the Geneva Refugee Convention, and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection can apply for BAföG without waiting.
- Refugees who have a tolerance permit are entitled to BAföG if they have been legally resident, permitted or tolerated in Germany for 15 months without interruption.
- The funded course must generally be started before the end of the 30th year of life (for Master’s programs until the end of the 35th year of life). After that, students can only receive BAföG under certain conditions.
The BAföG application must be submitted in writing to the responsible BAföG office (“Amt für Ausbildungsförderung”). As a student, you submit the application through the student services (“Studentenwerk”). The Studentenwerk and the BAföG office also support you in the application process.
The Deutschlandstipendium is awarded to students at almost 300 universities in Germany. The scholarship aims to help high-performing and socially engaged students finance their studies. It can be awarded in addition to BAföG and does not have to be repaid. Half of the scholarship is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and half by private sponsors. In 2016, more than 25,000 students were eligible for the Deutschlandstipendium.
The funding is 300 euros per month. Depending on the sponsor and the university, free additional offers such as further education or information events, internships, etc. are offered.
The funding period is based on the standard period of study and is scheduled for at least 2 semesters, ie 1 year. Thereafter, the university again checks whether the eligibility conditions are met.
The scholarship is generally awarded to enrolled students of all nationalities and for courses of all disciplines. When awarding the scholarships, great attention is paid to excellent academic performance and social commitment of the applicants. Overcoming difficult living conditions, such as fleeing the homeland, is also considered a positive criterion.
You can apply for the Deutschlandstipendium in writing directly to the university. The university also advises you on questions regarding the application, determines the application deadline and decides on the awarding of the scholarships.
Begabtenförderung StipendiumPlus (scholarship for gifted students) is a funding program of 13 German gifted education organizations under the umbrella of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Through this scholarship students with outstanding achievements in their undergraduate or doctoral studies are supported financially and ideally, e.g. by language courses, counseling and mentoring accompanying programs. The scholarship can also be awarded in addition to the BAföG and the subsidy amount does not have to be paid back by the sponsored students. In 2016, nearly 29,000 students were supported by this scholarship.
- The support is based on the BAföG (and dependent on the income of the parents).
- The maximum funding is currently 735 euros per month.
- Of these, up to 71 euros are health insurance subsidy and 15 euros long-term care insurance subsidy.
- In addition, a family allowance of 155 euros per month, a study allowance of 300 euros and a childcare allowance of 130 euros are possible.
- The funding is income-dependent and amounts to a maximum of € 1,350 a month.
- In addition, a family allowance of 155 euros per month, a research fee of 100 euros and a childcare allowance of 155 euros are possible.
As with the BAföG, you can generally be funded until the end of the standard period of study of your degree program.
For the promotion of talent, the same conditions apply as for the BAföG. The scholarship is also available for:
- Recognized refugees according to Geneva Refugee Convention,
- recognized asylum seekers,
- subsidiary entitled to protection and
- tolerated refugees, if they have been legally resident, permitted or tolerated for 15 months in Germany.
For some foundations, there are more specific restrictions on the prerequisites, such as origin, religious affiliation or subject of study. Generally, this scholarship is awarded to students with outstanding achievements and doctoral candidates with promising doctoral theses. Usually also certified German language skills or language tests are required and the students may not be older than 30 years at the beginning of their studies or 35 years at Master’s degree courses.
You can submit your application via the respective organization (Begabtenförderwerk). The organizations will advise you on questions concerning funding and application, take over the selection process and also determine the application deadlines individually.
Otto Benecke Stiftung / ‘Bildungsberatung Garantiefonds Hochschule’ – Funding for Refugees
The program ‘Bildungsberatung Garantiefonds Hochschule’ (Educational Guidance Guarantee Fund University), funded by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend), offers foreign students comprehensive support and advice for starting or continuing their academic education in Germany. The Educational Guidance helps foreign students, for example in the planning of studies, acquisition of necessary language skills and higher education entrance credentials, recognition of educational qualifications from the country of origin and financing of studies. It also assists the students throughout their studies. In cooperation with the Otto Benecke Foundation e.V., the scholarship for the support of refugees, repatriates and Jewish immigrants is awarded within the framework of this program.
The exact amount of the financial support is determined individually. The scholarship can include the following benefits:
- Course fees (for example for language courses or to obtain the university entrance qualification)
- Flat-rate education allowance for learning material costs (30 euros per month)
- Reimbursement of travel expenses
- Living expenses costs (up to 399 euros) and accommodation costs (up to 250 euros)
- Cost of health insurance
- Other refunds, e.g. for translation, recognition and certification costs
- Tutoring (up to 150 Euro per month)
The funding period is up to 30 months. The support ends at the latest after 60 months stay of the subsidized person in Germany.
Funding can be requested from recognized refugees, repatriates and Jewish migrants, conditions are:
- An up front consultation and planning discussion with the educational counseling GF-H and accompaniment during the study.
- The application for funding must be submitted no later than two years after entry – If the status recognition procedure has lasted two years or more, the application can still be made within one year of being recognized as a refugee.
- At the time of admission, the applicants must be under 30 years of age.
You can apply directly through the counseling centers of the „Bildungsberatung Garantiefonds Hochschule“. For the application an up front consultation is necessary. The educational counseling supports you in the planning of the study and in the preparation of the application.
Other scholarships for refugees
In addition to the three major scholarship programs we have presented, there are also numerous other scholarships from various foundations, associations, private sponsors or universities. Many of these offer their funding also for refugees or especially for refugees.
Depending on the scholarship, it may be about financial support but also about non-material funding, for example through mentoring programs, further education, assistance, etc.
Brot für die Welt / Evangelisches Werk für Diakonie und Entwicklung e.V. Refugee Scholarship Program
– a scholarship program with financial and non-monetary support for student refugees
Learn more: info.brot-fuer-die-welt.de
Hochform – Walter Blüchert Stiftung / Deutsche Universitätsstiftung /Otto Benecke Stiftung
– primarily non-monetary support for refugees studying and preparing to work in Germany
Learn more: hochform.org
An overview of current scholarship programs for refugees can be found in the scholarship databases. Here you can search specifically for scholarships for refugees or students from a certain country of origin.
The Studentenwerke and Universities also provide students with advice on scholarships and funding opportunities for their studies.
Education Loan of the Federal Government
The Federal Administration Office, together with the KfW Bank, offers the so-called education loan to support students, especially in the later stages of their studies. The educational loan is awarded at a very low fixed rate regardless of the student’s income and can also be taken in addition to the BAföG.
Loan amount: 1.000 to 7.200 Euro
Effective interest rate: 0,47% (As of: 01.10.2021, update every 6 months)
Loan payment: You can choose monthly payouts of 100, 200 or 300 euros. The payout period is a maximum of 2 years. A one-time payment of up to 3,600 euros is also possible.
Loan repayment: The repayment begins four years after the first payment. The monthly installments are 120 euros.
Requirements: The loan is available to students aged 18 to 35 years who have already passed the intermediate exam or have earned 60 credits in the credit point system. The loan can be given to stateless foreigners, refugees with permanent right of residence and recognized asylum seekers.
Application: You can apply for an educational loan directly online at the Federal Office of Administration (Bundesverwaltungsamt).
Further details on the loan and on the exact conditions for granting, paying out and repaying loans are available from KfW-Bank.
General information for refugees about studying and student financing
Study-in.de – Studying in Germany – Information for Refugees
study-in.de (German / English)
Deutsches Studentenwerk – Information for international students
internationale-studierende.de (German / English)
Deutscher Bildungsserver – College access and study opportunities for refugees
bildungsserver.de (German / English)
Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst DAAD – Refugees at universities: This is how the DAAD is involved
daad.de (German / English)
Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge BAMF (Federal Office for Migration and Refugees)
bamf.de (German / English)
Language tests and study suitability tests
Sprachnachweis.de – Information on language certificates and examinations for foreign applicants
sprachnachweis.de (German / English)
onSET – Online language test for refugees
refugees.onset.de (German / English / French / Arabic)
TestAS – Standardized academic ability test for foreign students used by many universities
testas.de (German / English)
Deutsch-Uni Online – Language courses for learning German online (fee required)
deutsch-uni.com (German / English / French / Arabic)
Have school and university degrees from the country of origin recognized
Uni-Assist.de – Many colleges and universities have the qualifications of foreign applicants examined by uni-assist in Berlin. For refugees the examination of the study application is free of charge.
uni-assist.de (German / English)
Zentralstelle für ausländisches Bildungswesen – The Central Office for Foreign Education decides which educational qualifications from the country of origin will be recognized.
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