Before their studies begin, future students already face high costs. This often discourages young people from financially weak families.
No use without money: Student housing search via bulletin board Photo: Felix Kastle / dpa
Schleswig-Holstein will be the first federal state to pay a scholarship to first-year students from low-income families. The parliamentary groups of the Jamaica coalition have agreed on this. A similar model is already in place in Hanover, where it has been shown that the money makes it easier for young people from migrant families and refugees in particular to enter university.
The move to another city, bed and desk, rent deposit, laptop and books: The start of studies is not only the start of a new phase of life, it is also expensive. Many students receive the money for their initial equipment from their parents or grandparents. But what about young people whose families can’t spare a penny or who can’t hope for help from their relatives, for example because they grew up in a home or because they came to Germany as refugees?
The "start-up aid" is intended for them, says Lasse Petersdotter, higher education expert for the Green Party’s parliamentary group in the state parliament. Because for young people from non-academic households, the path to university is still a long one, he says: "Alone because their parents can’t tell them what happens there, but also for financial reasons."
Although there is state support, Bafog, the first installment is only paid out when the studies are already underway, i.e. when the apartment has been rented and the semester contribution has to be paid. At Kiel University, this involves 263 euros, which is made up of administrative fees, the contribution for the student union and the state-wide semester ticket of 134 euros. Although students can be reimbursed for the costs in exceptional cases, they still have to pay in first. "That puts a lot of people off," says Petersdotter.
It is difficult for young people to earn money and put it aside for the start of their studies. That’s because if the family lives on unemployment benefit II or asylum seeker benefits, even a child is only allowed to keep an extra 100 euros a month. "First of all, it’s extremely hard to be so disciplined, to work for months but not be allowed to spend a cent," Petersdotter says. "And secondly, there are hardly any jobs where you earn only 100 euros, most employers are looking for 450-euro workers." In addition, he said, numerous jobs for pupils* and students, from waitressing to helping with homework, are hardly possible under pandemic conditions. "People are going deep into dispo and pumping their circle of friends – or dropping out of college."
Aid alone won’t close the social and financial gaps, but "it can succeed in making it a bit fairer," Petersdotter says. The Jamaica coalition stands united behind the proposal, he adds.
120,000 euros have been earmarked for the "study start-up aid" in the upcoming budget, which will be presented on Friday. A scholarship amounts to a maximum of 800 euros, which does not have to be repaid. For the sums, the coalition members have oriented themselves on the example of Hanover.
There, the Studentenwerk launched such a project in 2015, which has been better received every year. In 2018, 131 people received "start-up aid," which in Hanover amounts to a maximum of 400 euros. 104 of the scholarship holders have a migration background, 59 of whom are refugees. Two of the current students applied out of the asylum process.
The Kiel Asta praises the idea: "We think the measure is very good and the amount is appropriate," say spokespersons Julia Schmidtke and Johnny Schwausch. An unbureaucratic procedure is important.
The Studentenwerk Schleswig-Holstein is supposed to take care of this. Their social advisor Daniela Evers is pleased that it should start in the next winter semester: "The Studentenwerk SH has suggested this start-up aid and welcomes the decision of the state." The goal, she says, is to keep bureaucracy "to a minimum."
That seems feasible: In Hanover, the questionnaire is just under two pages long.