Commentary on bafog increase: a makeshift fix

Education Minister Anja Karliczek wants to increase Bafog. Unfortunately, not enough. The money is simply not enough to live on in expensive big cities.

So many books, so little time: After the standard period of study, Bafog no longer flows Photo: dpa

At least when it comes to education, the grand coalition is better than its reputation. Just last month, Family Minister Giffey presented a draft for expanding daycare facilities that was as sensible as it was worth billions. And now her cabinet colleague Anja Karliczek, who has been extremely inconspicuous up to now, is finally making an impact. The CDU education minister leaked her plans for the long-promised Bafog reform on Tuesday: the changes are to come into effect for the winter semester next year.

The key points, which are available to the taz, are quite welcome. The maximum rate is to rise to 850 euros, as is the flat-rate housing allowance for students (to 325 euros). In addition, thanks to the increased income allowances for parents, significantly more young people should be eligible for Bafog in the future. And those who become poor after their studies can have their Bafog debts waived. Karliczek hopes that this alone will finally encourage more students to take advantage of Bafog.

After all, the former flagship instrument of equal opportunity is no longer effective. Last year, the number of Bafog recipients slipped to a 15-year low. And this is certainly not just due to young people’s fears of taking out student loans. The Bafog is simply no longer enough to live on. The maximum rate since the last increase two years ago is 735 euros. Especially in the big cities with their exploding rents, people can’t get by. Especially since nothing happened for a whole decade before the last moderate Bafog increase.

The Karliczek cornerstones can therefore also be described, as Berlin’s governing SPD mayor Muller could not resist doing, as a "long overdue" step. However, the Bafog reform will hardly bring about the "trend reversal" promised in the coalition agreement. For that, Karliczek would have had to agree to an automatic adjustment of the contribution rates to income trends, as unions and the opposition have long been demanding. Otherwise, in two years at the latest, we will be faced with the same diagnosis: Bafog is not enough to live on.

What’s missing above all, however, are flexible periods of eligibility. Until now, the rule has been that when the standard period of study ends, there’s no more money. However, there are good reasons why it is not always possible to adhere to the standard period of study. Especially for students who work part-time. In other words, those who should be able to live on Bafog alone.

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