Students welcome living-costs relief grant but need more

A one-off payment of €200 (US$200) for all students in Germany to cope with the cost of living this winter has been welcomed by Matthias Anbuhl, secretary general of the German National Association for Student Affairs or Deutsches Studentenwerk (DSW). However, Anbuhl believes that more support is needed.

The money is part of a €65 billion relief package discussed by the ruling Social Democrat-Green-Free Democrat coalition over the weekend. The Euro zone reached an unprecedented inflation rate of 8.9% in July, driven largely by huge increases in gas prices, which in turn impacted on electricity rates and caused a knock-on effect on the economy as a whole.

Ahead of a European Union emergency session of energy ministers addressing measures to mitigate high energy prices, the German government’s package already includes measures to keep electricity prices down and provide heating allowances, although details have yet to be thrashed out. One key unresolved issue is a review of the planned decommissioning of nuclear power plants.

The €200 for students is meant to help them cope with the cost of living in general over the coming winter, and caters for all students enrolled at German universities, including international students.

A single group

“That the federal government now explicitly refers to all 2.9 million students in Germany as a group and intends to support them with a one-off payment of €200 has to be welcomed,” Anbuhl said.

“Whereas so far, only the students on BAföG (Bundesausbildungs-förderungsgesetz) federal grants – just 11% of all students – have benefited from a one-off heating allowance, this new lump sum is now to be provided for all students, which is indeed an important step. However, more is needed, and there is still a long way to go.”

Anbuhl stressed that the money now has to be swiftly transferred to students’ accounts. “Especially, the more than 60% of them relying on rented accommodation on the free housing market need the €200 as soon as possible,” he said.

The DSW also maintains that measures planned to keep electricity prices down can help.

“Having just emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, students are already scraping the barrel, both financially and mentally,” Anbuhl noted. “With prices skyrocketing, they often don’t know how they are going to pay the gas and electricity bills and cover food costs in the winter.”

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