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Financial Support

Waiver of the Semester Ticket Fee

The obtainment of a semester ticket is compulsory for all students. However, you can apply for an exemption from the semester ticket, if you have the addendum (Beiblatt) to the disability ID card from the Amt für Versorgung und Integration Bremen (Social Affairs Office Bremen) (stating your entitlement to travel free of charge in public transportation). Applications for a waiver of the semester ticket fee, together with the relevant proof, must be submitted to the Student Office by February 15 or August 1, before the start of the semester. For re-enrollment, the semester fee must be transferred by February 15 or August 15, minus the fee for the semester ticket.

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Waiver of Long-Term Tuition Fees

All students in Bremen have a study “credit” of 14 semesters. If this credit is used up, 500 euros tuition fees per semester must be paid in addition to the semester fees. If you have not been able to finish your studies during the regular period of study because of a prolonged illness or disability, you can apply for a waiver of this long-term tuition fee. It is important that the extension of the study period was caused by the illness/disability. This waiver of tuition fees depends on the duration and severity of your impairment and is limited to the duration of the standard period of study.

An application for a waiver of fees must be writing. The letter should contain the following:

  • exact details of the length of the extension of the study period. It should describe during which period the student was or is impaired in their studies that studying was only possible with considerable delay.
  • information on the way in which the impairment caused the extension of the study period. The disclosure of a diagnosis is not necessary for this but a concrete description of the impairment and its effects on the course of study.
  • a current professional statement from a doctor or psychotherapist, which shows which concrete symptoms impair the student’s course of study and to what extent.
  • if available, medical reports on hospital stays, disability ID card, pension statement, or similar.

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BAföG Student Loan

Additional Allowable Income of Parents/Spouse

“In order to avoid undue hardship, an additional part of the income may, by way of derogation from the above provisions, remain exempt from imputation upon special application, which must be submitted before the end of the approval period. This includes, in particular, extraordinary burdens in accordance with section 33 to 33b of the Income Tax Act (EStG) as well as expenses for dependent persons with disabilities, to whom the income recipient is liable for financial support under civil law.” (section 25, subsection 6 BAföG)

The BAföG student loan calculation therefore not only considers the student’s disability but also that of a parent or other dependent family member. Specifically, the expenses or costs directly related to the illness/disability (of a family member) incurred during the current student loan period can be claimed as extraordinary expenses.

It is therefore advisable to submit an application for a BAföG student loan in any case, because the expenses or costs caused by the disability or illness can significantly increase the limit of allowable income.

Additional Allowable Savings and Assets

In exceptional cases, the savings and asset limit might be extended beyond the annual allowable assets of 7,500 euros, to which everyone is entitled, especially if the assets are intended to alleviate the consequences of physical or mental impairment.

Duration of Studies

If the impairment delays the course of study, this can be asserted at the end of the fourth semester with the mandatory transcript of records. The BAföG office may allow the transcript of records to be submitted at a later date, if evidence is provided showing that the required coursework could not be completed in time because of the disability/illness. For this purpose, it must be proven how exactly the disability or the symptoms of the illness have impaired the student’s ability to study and have caused a delay or even a non-pass of the course. (If possible, 60 of the required 90 credit points should have been acquired. The BAföG office can question the student’s general ability to study if significantly less credit points have been obtained). 

Financial Support beyond the Maximum Funding Period

It is possible to receive a BAföG student grant beyond the maximum funding period if the student can provide concrete evidence for how the disability or illness has prolonged their studies (proof of disability alone is not sufficient for this; it must be clearly shown how the impairment prolongs the duration of studies). How long funding is extended depends on periods of absence, but generally, apart from very few exceptions, does not exceed one semester per year of study. According to section 48 of the German Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG), the time before the submission of the transcript of records is considered a separate study period; after the submission of the transcript of records, no more reasons relating to the first two years/first four semesters can be asserted.

Exceeding the Age Limit at the Start of University Studies (Bachelor’s Degree/Master’s Degree)

If prospective or current students are unsure whether they are entitled to a BAföG student loan because they have exceeded the age limit, changed their course of study, or have already received a BAföG student loan in the past, they can obtain further information from the BAföG office.

Reasons that allow an extension of the age limit:

  • having obtained a university entrance qualification via adult education, or
  • having a disability or illness that makes it necessary to study, or
  • having a disability or illness that has prevented the timely commencement of studies.

In these cases, a written preliminary ruling (section 46 (5) sentence 1 BAföG) can be requested. The BAföG office is bound by this preliminary ruling for one year.

Applicants are only entitled to a BAföG student loan, if they start their studies as soon as possible after the previous hindrances have ceased to exist or as soon as the need arises (section 10, para. 3, sentence 3). 

Change of Degree Course for Compelling Reasons (Disability Occurring During the Course of Study and Later Change of Degree Course)

If you want to change your subject area after the beginning of the fourth semester, you will have to present compelling reasons (irrefutable reasons) in order for the new degree course to be funded in the same way as a first degree course. One reason could be the onset of a disability or serious illness that prevents the student from pursuing the desired profession (section 7 para. 3 sentence 1 BAföG).

The change of subject must take place immediately, that is, without any undue delay, and must be substantiated in writing.

Loan Repayment

Generally, repayment of your student loan begins five years after the end of funding. It is carried out in installments. An exemption from repayment is possible if your monthly income is below a certain threshold. In cases of hardship, an additional part of the income may remain exempt from imputation in case of disability or chronic illness (section 18a para. 1 BAföG).

Child Benefit (Kindergeld)

For children with a disability over the age of 25, child benefit is paid beyond the age-related threshold, if he/she is not in a position to support himself/herself due to a physical, mental or psychological disability. The child’s disability must have occurred before his/her 25th birthday.

If the child’s own financial means do not exceed the tax-free allowance of 9,168 euros (general living needs allowance) per calendar year, the Family Benefits Office will assume that the child cannot support him/herself.

Additional needs relating to the child’s disability are also regarded as essential living needs and can be put forward to determine the individual disposable net income. Saving or assets of children with disabilities have no effect on child benefit. 

(Child Benefit leaflet from the Family Benefits Office (Familienkasse), Federal Central Tax Office (Bundeszentralamt für Steuern), as of January 2019)

In order to apply, an official certificate confirming the disability must be submitted to the Family Benefits Office, e.g. the disability ID card, the formal decision from the Social Affairs Office, or the official pension approval certificate (Rentenbescheid). Similarly, a medical certificate issued by the attending physician can also prove the disability and its corresponding effect on one’s ability to work.

Statutory Health Insurance

Students under 25 years of age can still be covered by the family insurance provided that their regular monthly income does not exceed 425 euros. If you are in marginal employment (Mini-Job), the allowable income is 450 euros. The family insurance can cover someone beyond the completion of the 25th year of age, if their education was interrupted, for example, by completing  voluntary service.

Persons who are not able to support themselves because of a disability can still be covered by the family insurance beyond the age of 25. In certain circumstances, the age limit can be lifted completely. Here too, the disability must have occurred before reaching the age limit. Appropriate proof must be submitted.

Mandatory Health Insurance for Students: Changes in 2020

In the past, student health insurance ended once students started their 15th semester or reached the age of 30. The limit of 14 semesters was abolished in January 2020; the age limit of 30 remains. This means that, in theory, it is now possible to remain under health insurance in the student category, if you have studied 16 semesters, provided that you are no older than 30 years of age. The age limit can be exceeded in justified exceptions, for example, in case of a chronic illness or disability. Further information can be obtained from the local health insurances or from the contacts listed below.

In addition, the transitional rate (Übergangstarif) no longer exists, which allowed students to be health insured for six months after they dropped out of the regular student insurance to a rate more expensive than the student rate, but still cheaper than the regular, non-student rate.

Further Information and Contact:

BAföG and Social Counselling of the AStA Student Council
Phone: +49 (0)421 218-69727 (scroll down for English)

Social Counselling Office of the Student Services Organization Bremen
Sonja Vieten
sozialberatungprotect me ?!stw-bremenprotect me ?!.de
Phone: +49 (0)421 2201-11340