Student services call for social infrastructure cash boost

Student service organisations in Germany have called on the federal and state governments to do more to support social infrastructure for students. They want subsidies for housing, catering facilities and psychosocial counselling for students.

The 57 student service organisations under the umbrella of the German National Association for Student Affairs or Deutsches Studentenwerk (DSW) have demanded additional federal and state government funding to build new and renovate existing student halls of residence, rebuild and renovate student restaurants and other catering facilities and provide psychosocial counselling for students in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With food, housing and heating becoming more and more expensive, many students are finding it harder to make ends meet. “In the present crisis, students are all the more dependent on a stable social infrastructure,” said outgoing DSW President Rolf-Dieter Postlep at the umbrella association’s annual members’ meeting.

Catering facilities, residences, mental health

However, student service facilities are also facing difficulties. “Above all, the university catering facilities we run are coming under severe financial pressure,” Postlep stressed. The DSW said that its 950 catering facilities, around 400 of them student restaurants, will need government subsidies of €1.6 billion (US$1.7 billion) over the next four years.

The DSW also estimates that it will require additional government support totalling €2.6 billion to build new halls of residence and renovate existing ones between 2022 and 2026. During this period, it would then be providing an additional 25,000 places at halls of residence.

In the medium term, the DSW seeks to offer an additional 64,000 places if government funding is available for half of the costs involved.

Post-COVID support programme

The DSW points out that with students now facing multiple crises, demand for social and psychological counselling has also risen markedly, which is why it is now calling on the federal and state governments to launch a ‘Post-Corona Support Programme for Students’.

This measure would require investing up to €10 million over the next four semesters in the student counselling facilities of the service organisations.

“The campus of the future needs social and digital foundations, and it has to be sustainable,” Postlep said. “Local social infrastructure on a sound footing is especially important for students experiencing the present crises.”

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