Students in Germany are now able to apply for a one-off payment of €200 (US$215) to cope with rising energy prices. But shortly after the launch earlier this month, and due to the onrush of applications, the platform for applications quickly became inaccessible. And student leaders said the payment was too late for students who had already dropped out.
All students who were enrolled at a German university and were residents of Germany on 1 December 2022 are eligible for support. The money will neither be subject to taxation nor be subtracted from other student benefits. The measure was passed by the federal government last September.
“Processing of applications and payment will be dealt with very swiftly by an automatic procedure,” Federal Education and Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger promised ahead of the official launch of the scheme. The “Einmalzahlung200.de” (one-off payment 200) platform had already been tested in a pilot programme in the federal state of Saxony with more than 12,000 students, who have since received their support.
However, Saxony’s student union organisation Konferenz Sächsischer Studierendenschaften (KSS) was highly critical of the arrangements for payment of the support. “We think it was a big mistake to require that the payment of the €200 only be made on application,” said KSS official Paul Steinbrecher, maintaining that for those most in need of money, the application procedure represents an almost unsurmountable hurdle.
The KSS predicted a major surge in applications, especially in the first few days after the launch.
“Both the IT service providers operating the platform and the department making the payments are prepared for this,” said Stark-Watzinger’s Free Democratic Party colleague Jens Brandenburg, who is parliamentary state secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), ahead of the federal-wide launch in mid-March.
However, “Einmalzahlung200.de” was soon inaccessible, and applicants were referred to a digital waiting room.
Students had ‘already dropped out’
KSS spokeswoman Uta Lemke said that support was being given far too late in any case.
“Students unable to pay service charges in rented accommodation have probably already dropped out of studying,” Lemke, said, calling for adequately funded hardship funding measures with a minimum of digital red tape.
“The collapse of the Stark-Watzinger platform really is the final straw in the mess the federal education minister has created in the payment of the €200 subsidy,” said Thomas Jarzombek, Christian Democrat education policy spokesman for the Christian Democratic and Christian Social Union parliamentary opposition parties.