Begabtenförderungswerke

Foundations for providing scholarship money to “gifted” students.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine said in addition to the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes [Studies Foundation of the German People], there are 12 smaller foundations in Germany that also provide scholarships to “gifted” students. The twelve are anchored in core society groups such as the political parties, religions, labor unions and employers. The smaller foundations receive some or all of this scholarship money from the federal Education Ministry and pass it on to the students they select, after taking 14% for administrative costs.

1% of German university students receive money from these groups, nearly 26,000 students in 2013.

In the past, the gifted scholarships consisted of a need-based monthly allowance, calculated using Bafög data, plus a monthly supplement called “books money” [Büchergeld] that has now been renamed [Studienkostenpauschale, “study expenses grant”] after it was announced in February that it would be increased to 300 euros/month effective September 2014.

A similar merit-based scholarship of 300 euros/month—150 from the Education Ministry, 150 from a sponsor— that was seen as competition to the books money is called the Deutschlandstipendium, Germany Scholarship, available to any German university and to qualifying students from any nationality.

(Beh GOB ten fir-r-r dare oongs verk ah.)

Bafög

Bafög is need-based assistance given to German high school and university students until they complete their first degree. The need-based calculation contains a bewildering variety of factors that include the parents’ income and the student’s expenses. High school students don’t have to pay it back, and university students have to pay half back, without interest. The word comes from the abbreviation for the law that established the scholarship, the Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz [German education/training assistance act].

Update on 27 May 2014: After weeks of discussion about spending more on education, the federal government has announced it will start paying 100% of Bafög, rather than the current 65% federal money, 35% state money. The states will have to invest the 35%, ~1.17 billion euros each year, in schools and universities, though Wolfgang Schäuble said there are no control mechanisms in place to enforce this. Bafög is to be reformed again in 2016/17.

Update on 21 Jul 2014: The federal government announced they will be increasing Bafög by 7%, the Elternfreibetrag [?] by 7% —which will increase the number of students qualifying to receive Bafög by >110,000 university and school students—and the rent stipend to 250 euros/month. The increases will go into effect in the winter semester 2016/2017. The last time Bafög was increased was in 2010.

(BAFFIG.)

Volksbegehren gegen Studiengebühren

“Referendum against tuition fees.” The states run the universities in Germany. Usually they charge very low tuition fees by US standards or university is free and students just have to pay registration and student union fees and buy subsidized cheap universal health insurance (includes dental and medicine). After some states experimented with introducing tuition fees in the 1990’s, almost all the states unintroduced them except Bavaria and Lower Saxony. In 2012, Bavarian citizens collected the 25,000 signatures required for a referendum to let people vote directly to eliminate college tuition throughout the state.

Though Bavarians have the Volksbegehren option, it’s hard to pass a referendum in practice. In 1968 the Bavarian state parliament (Landtag) made conditions for passing direct referenda much tougher, reducing the time frame from four weeks to two, banning public solicitation of signatures in the street or door-to-door, while requiring signatures of 10% of all registered voters for passage and, writes Hans Herbert von Arnim, making mail-in ballots much more difficult [von Arnim, Die Selbstbediener, pp. 162–3].

Before the voters had a chance to decide on the anti-tuition referendum however, Bavaria’s Interior Ministry (CSU) filed a complaint against it with the Bavarian constitutional court or Verfassungsgerichtshof in Munich saying the referendum was unconstitutional because it would affect Bavaria’s budget. The Bavarian constitutional court has interpreted the state’s so-called “budget caveat” or Haushaltsvorbehalt to mean that referenda that would cost money, i.e. most of them, can be kept from a vote if they will impact the state budget in a way that isn’t slight [von Arnim, p. 173].

Bavaria’s supreme or constitutional court is a bit unusual in Germany [von Arnim, p. 27] and possibly one reason voters might be glad to have a direct referendum option. Federal German constitutional court judges have to be elected by a 2/3 parliamentary majority, to prevent judiciary dominance by one party; they have a 12-year term; and they cannot be reelected. Bavarian constitutional court judges have been mainly elected by the CSU party, because it has governed the state since 1946; they have an eight-year term; and they can be reelected an unlimited number of times.

In October 2012, the Bavarian constitutional court decided eliminating college tuition would not affect the state budget and allowed the referendum to proceed. In January 2013 the referendum passed with over 1.3 million signatures. In response, the Bavarian Landtag or state parliament quickly passed a law eliminating college tuition on 24 Apr 2013.

(FOKES beg AIR en   GAY gen   SHTOO dee en geh BOO ren.)

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