The COVID-19 pandemic has been with us for three semesters now (2020 Spring Term, 2020/2021 Fall Term and 2021 Spring Term). We all hope that soon we will no longer have to worry about contact restrictions and mandatory masks.

The legal regulations established to mitigate or prevent negative consequences for students' academic careers will be implemented by the Office of Student Financial Aid (Amt für Ausbildungsförderung) for some time to come, which is good news to BAföG student financial assistance recipients. We will therefore inform you about any special regulations regarding BAföG (German Student Financial Assistance Program).

Currently, the Office of Student Financial Aid (Amt für Ausbildungsförderung) does not offer face-to-face office hours. But we promise to answer your questions nevertheless. You can reach the staff of the Office of Student Financial Aid (Amt für Ausbildungsförderung) by phone and email, to give us the details on your case and to ask any questions you may have.

But maybe you will find answers to your most urgent questions in the following overview:

The COVID-19 pandemic has been with us for three semesters now (2020 Spring Term, 2020/2021 Fall Term and 2021 Spring Term). We all hope that soon we will no longer have to worry about contact restrictions and mandatory masks.

The legal regulations established to mitigate or prevent negative consequences for students' academic careers will be implemented by the Office of Student Financial Aid (Amt für Ausbildungsförderung) for some time to come, which is good news to BAföG student financial assistance recipients. We will therefore inform you about any special regulations regarding BAföG (German Student Financial Assistance Program).

Currently, the Office of Student Financial Aid (Amt für Ausbildungsförderung) does not offer face-to-face office hours. But we promise to answer your questions nevertheless. You can reach the staff of the Office of Student Financial Aid (Amt für Ausbildungsförderung) by phone and email, to give us the details on your case and to ask any questions you may have.

But maybe you will find answers to your most urgent questions in the following overview:

Will postponement of the semester start have any impact on BAföG funding?

Postponement of the semester start has/had no impact on students' BAföG funding. Students who were unable to start their university education in the 2020 Spring Term, as originally planned, will receive their BAföG funding precisely as if their face-to-face lectures had commenced at the originally scheduled start of the semester.

Postponement of the start of lectures for the 2020/2021 Fall Term (postponed to November 02, 2020 at most universities) will likewise have no effect and students' BAföG funding. Even freshmen will be eligible for funding beginning in October 2020 if their application was received by the Office of Student Financial Aid (Amt für Ausbildungsförderung) in October 2020. The same applies even to classes which did not commence until November 2020.

Background: As a general rule, student financial aid is paid "from the beginning of the month in which university education is started, but at the earliest from the beginning of the month in which the application for student financial aid was submitted", Section 15 subsection (1) BAföG (German Student Financial Assistance Program). For this purpose, university education is "deemed to have commenced at the beginning of the month in which classes or lectures actually begin," Section 15b subsection (1) BAföG (German Student Financial Assistance Program). This means that the postponement of the semester start would have had an impact on all students enrolling at any of the affected universities at the start of the 2020 Spring Term and/or at the start of the 2020/2021 Fall Term and who apply for BAföG student financial assistance. According to the legal regulations, this would have meant that BAföG funding would only have been possible from April 2020 or November 2020 and not from March 2020 or October 2020.

At my university, the lectures during the pandemic semesters are not/were not held as scheduled. Am I still entitled to receive student financial aid (BAföG)?

BAföG will be/has continued to be paid even during the period(s) in which the university remains closed due to the pandemic. However, the following applies to all educational institutions which are continuing their teaching and training via online learning offerings during lockdowns: all students receiving BAföG student financial assistance shall be obliged, to the same extent as students enjoying normal teaching, to make use of such online offerings as best they can and to actually continue their education in this manner. Students' entitlement to BAföG financial assistance shall remain in force even if their university only offers online courses.

Background: As a general rule, only students attending the educational institution shall be entitled to receive student financial assistance, Section 9 BAföG (German Student Financial Assistance Program). Students will only be considered to be attending their educational institution if they attend the courses and show up for them on a regular basis, and if there is evidence of academic progress suggesting that the intended educational objective will be achieved.

Does the pandemic semester automatically lead to an extension of the standard program duration (Regelstudienzeit)?

Yes, under certain conditions.

Art. 99 para. (2) of the Bavarian University and College Act (BayHSchG) has been amended twice: On July 08, 2020 with retroactive effect as at April 04, 2020 for the 2020 Spring Term, and on March 23, 2021 with retroactive effect as at October 01, 2021 for the 2020/2021 Fall Term and the 2021 Spring Term.  

This means that students enrolled in a degree program at a state or state-recognized higher education institution during the 2020 Spring Term, the 2020/2021 Fall Term, or the 2021 Spring Term who are not on leave of absence shall have their individual program duration extended by one semester, which is in deviation from the standard program duration (Regelstudienzeit). A student's individual program duration equals the standard program duration (Regelstudienzeit), extended by one semester for each semester during which the requirements set forth in the first sentence are met.

This provision shall apply to all students who had not yet exceeded their original standard program duration (Regelstudienzeit) during the Spring Term. This means that the provision does not apply to students who had already reached the end of their standard program duration (Regelstudienzeit) during the 2019/2020 Fall Term. What this means is that if you were enrolled in one (the same) degree program (i.e., no language courses) at one of our universities during the 2020 Spring Term, the 2020/2021 Fall Term, or the 2021 Spring Term and were not on leave of absence (making submission of your certificate of enrollment mandatory according to Section 9 BAföG for each semester is mandatory in all cases), your standard program duration (Regelstudienzeit) may be extended by up to three semesters; i.e., one extra semester for each pandemic semester.

The standard program duration (Regelstudienzeit) will be officially extended.

Any extension of the standard program duration (Regelstudienzeit) generally takes into account any delays resulting from the pandemic.

Do I still have to submit my academic achievement records after four semesters, even if there were pandemic semesters during the first four semesters of my program?

For each pandemic semester (2020 Spring Term, 2020/2021 Fall Term, 2021 Spring Term) which coincided with any of your program's first four semesters, the submission deadline for your academic achievement records will be postponed by one semester (in analogous application of Art. 99 para. (2) of the Bavarian University and College Act (BayHSchG)). However, this provision only applies as long as you were enrolled in a program at one of our universities and were not on leave of absence during any of these semesters.

Example: Students for whom the 2020 Spring Term was their fourth major-specific semester are actually required to submit your academic achievement records attesting to having achieved the normal academic proficiency level for four semesters by the end of their 4th semester in order to be considered eligible for BAföG funding in their 5th semester, i.e., the 2020/2021 Fall Term. Now it is possible in this case to postpone submission of their Certificate of Academic Achievement (Leistungsbescheinigung) by three semesters. Hence, it is sufficient for students to prove that they have achieved their normal academic performance level required in four semesters by the end of the 2021/2022 Fall Term, even though in our example case the 2021/2022 Fall Term is already the 7th semester. This means that students are granted an additional three semesters to achieve their normal academic proficiency level expected in four semesters.

Background: As a general rule, no student financial aid will be granted after the 5th major-specific semester unless the student has proven achievement of his/her normal academic performance by that date. The exact provisions are set forth in Section 48 subsection (1) BAföG (German Student Financial Assistance Program). Evidence attesting to normal academic performance is provided by Form 5, which is issued by the BAföG eligibility reviser (a full-time faculty member). Presentation of this form is MANDATORY to be considered eligible for BAföG student assistance beginning in the 5th major-specific semester.  

Due to the coronavirus crisis, I am unable to complete my coursework. I will have a negative academic achievement record. What does this signify for my financial assistance eligibility?

If you receive a negative academic achievement record, please contact the Office of Student Financial Aid (Amt für Ausbildungsförderung) as it is possible to postpone the submission of your academic achievement records, although each case will be considered individually.

For students who were enrolled in a degree program at a state or state-recognized institutions of higher education during the 2020 Spring Term and who were not on leave of absence, the submission deadline for their academic achievement records will be postponed by between one and three semesters (in analogous application of Art. 99 of the Bavarian University and College Act (BayHSchG)) - see previous question.

Example: Students for whom the 2020 Spring Term was their fourth major-specific semester are actually required to submit your academic achievement records attesting to having achieved the normal academic proficiency level for four semesters by the end of their 4th semester in order to be considered eligible for BAföG funding in their 5th semester, i.e., the 2020/2021 Fall Term. However, it is now possible to postpone submission of their Certificate of Academic Achievement (Leistungsbescheinigung) by up to three semesters. Hence, it is sufficient for students to prove that they have achieved their normal academic performance level required in four semesters by the end of the 2021/2022 Fall Term, even though in our example case the 2021/2022 Fall Term is already the 7th semester. This means that students are granted an additional three semesters to achieve their normal academic proficiency level expected in four semesters.

In that case, however, no further reasons of delay arising from the 2020 Summer Term, the 2020/2021 Fall Term or the 2021 Spring Term will be accepted as all delays will be deemed compensated in full by the above postponement option.

However, where delays have already occurred prior to the pandemic, BAföG (German Student Financial Assistance Program) offers the possibility of further postponing the submission of students' academic performance records in these cases.

The Office of Student Financial Aid (Amt für Ausbildungsförderung) will check the causality based on academic progress (overview of the student's academic achievements in the individual semesters - passed and failed examinations) and based on the student's declaration.

Background: BAföG offers students the possibility of postponing submission of their academic achievement records, i.e., in justified exceptional cases students may be granted extra time for submitting evidence of their normal academic proficiency level, Section 48 subsection (2) in conjunction with Section 15 subsection (3) BAföG (German Student Financial Assistance Program). This means that unavoidable interruptions of a student's university studies through no fault of the student may constitute good cause within the meaning of Section 15 subsection (3), number (1) BAföG (German Student Financial Assistance Program). According to Section 48 (2) BAföG (German Student Financial Assistance Program), the submission deadline for academic achievement records may also be postponed accordingly.

I will not be able to finish my degree within the standard program duration (Regelstudienzeit) as a result of the pandemic. Will I still be entitled to BAföG student financial assistance?

Art. 99 para. (2) of the Bavarian University and College Act (BayHSchG) has been amended twice: On July 08, 2020 with retroactive effect as at April 04, 2020 for the 2020 Spring Term, and on March 23, 2021 with retroactive effect as at October 01, 2021 for the 2020/2021 Fall Term and the 2021 Spring Term.  This means that students enrolled in a degree program at a state or state-recognized higher education institution during the 2020 Spring Term, the 2020/2021 Fall Term, or the 2021 Spring Term who are not on leave of absence shall have their individual program duration extended by one semester, which is in deviation from the standard program duration (Regelstudienzeit). A student's individual program duration equals the standard program duration (Regelstudienzeit), extended by one semester for each semester during which the requirements set forth in the first sentence are met.

Based on Section 15a subsection (1) BAföG, it is therefore possible to grant students an - automatically - extended maximum duration of BAföG funding of between one and three semesters.

This provision shall apply to all students who had not yet exceeded their original standard program duration (Regelstudienzeit) during the Spring Term. This means that the provision does not apply to students who had already reached the end of their standard program duration (Regelstudienzeit) during the 2019/2020 Fall Term.

What this means is that if you were enrolled in (the same) degree program (i.e., no language courses) at one of our universities during the 2020 Spring Term, the 2020/2021 Fall Term, or the 2021 Spring Term and were not on leave of absence (making submission of your certificate of enrollment mandatory according to Section 9 BAföG for each semester in all cases), your standard program duration (Regelstudienzeit) may be extended by up to three semesters; i.e., one extra semester for each pandemic semester.

In that case, the standard program duration (Regelstudienzeit) will be officially extended by one semester.
Students granted the above-mentioned extension will no longer be able to claim additional study delays for the 2020 Spring Term, 2020/2021 Fall Term, and 2021 Spring Term. Any extension of the standard program duration (Regelstudienzeit) generally takes into account any delays resulting from the pandemic.
However, delays which occurred even prior to the 2020 Spring Term may certainly be taken additionally into account.

But again, the reasons for such delay must be causal. Please contact the Office of Student Financial Aid (Amt für Ausbildungsförderung) as each case will be reviewed individually. The Office of Student Financial Aid (Amt für Ausbildungsförderung) will check the causality based on academic progress (overview of the student's academic achievements in the individual semesters - passed and failed examinations) and based on the student's declaration.

Background: It is possible under BAföG to receive student financial assistance beyond the maximum duration of BAföG funding, Section 15 subsection (3) BAföG (German Student Financial Assistance Program). This means that unavoidable interruptions of a student's academic career through no fault of the student may constitute good cause within the meaning of Section 15 subsection (3), number (1) BAföG (German Student Financial Assistance Program), allowing students to receive funding for a correspondingly longer period.

Will there be any impact on my eligibility for post graduate support (Studienabschlusshilfe)?

Students who receive post graduate support (Studienabschlusshilfe) and who are unable to graduate as planned while still entitled to post graduate support due to the lockdown of their university or the postponement of the start of lectures will nevertheless continue to receive post graduate support (Studienabschlusshilfe) for up to twelve months during the pandemic-related restrictions. However, students remain obliged to make every endeavor to graduate as quickly as possible.

In the event of delays during the pandemic semesters through no fault of the student, while the student is still receiving post graduate support, such support may be extended once for an additional six months in exceptional cases. I.e., students may in exceptional cases draw post graduate support (Studienabschlusshilfe) for a maximum duration of eighteen months.

I wish to get involved in combating the novel coronavirus in systemically important industries. In what way will my income be credited against BAföG?

To make sure that applicants' income from jobs in systemically relevant industries and professions aimed at combating the COVID 19 pandemic, which jobs were taken up or increased in terms of working hours since March 1, 2020, won't be counted as income as defined by the BAföG Act for the duration of such activity or increase in working hours, various laws have been passed, repealed, and new laws have been passed. With their latest amendment to the law, the legislators have at least come somewhat closer to their intended goal.

On May 28, 2020, the amendments to Section 21 and to Section 53 of the BAföG Act were promulgated. Section 53 sub-section (2) of the new BAföG Act was repealed again and Section 21 subsection (4), number 5 of the BAföG Act was added.

These amendments will come into force from March 01, 2020 - i.e., retroactively.

These amendments shall continue to apply until the identified epidemic situation of national scope as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is officially lifted in accordance with Section 5 subsection (1), third sentence of the German Infection Protection Act - i.e., they will cease to apply from the month thereafter.

From now own, "applicants' additional income from jobs in systemically relevant industries and professions, to the extent the job was commenced or increased in terms of working hours for the purpose of combating the COVID 19 pandemic and its social consequences since March 1, 2020, may be disregarded for the duration of such job or increase in working hours" when crediting such income.

Such income must be income from a job in systemically relevant industries and professions. Typical examples include e.g. jobs in the health care sector, in social welfare institutions (nursing care facilities such as geriatric care, etc.) or in agriculture.

Such jobs must be performed specifically with a view to combating the COVID-19 pandemic and its social consequences. Such jobs must have been started recently or increased in terms of work hours since March 01, 2020. Only in these cases will it be possible to exempt applicant's income from their recently started job or from their recently increased work hours from being credited against BAföG student financial assistance or post graduate support.

However, students remain obliged to immediately report any income earned. The Office of Student Financial Aid (Amt für Ausbildungsförderung) will individually review each case as to whether and to what extent income is exemptible.

Will I lose my BAföG funding status, Section 8 I number (3) BAföG Act if I lost my job due as a result of the pandemic?

This issue will be decided based on whether the employment relationship has actually been terminated or whether it is merely temporally impossible to work.
If the employment relationship continues, albeit without the applicant working in his/her job for the time being, BAföG eligibility and funding should remain unaffected. Even if the employment relationship has been de facto terminated, this likewise does not necessarily mean the loss of BAföG eligibility and funding. In particular, interruption periods of up to two months maximum are not detrimental to BAföG eligibility and funding. But there are other exceptions.

At this point, we would like to draw your attention to the many job offers currently available which are of equal importance in the current situation. Help is desperately needed, especially in the agricultural and healthcare sectors and in social welfare institutions:

"Jobben in der Corona-Krise" ("Working during the coronavirus crisis"), helpful hints from the Studis online portal:
https://www.studis-online.de/Jobben/jobben-in-der-corona-krise.php

New online job portal for the agricultural sector: https://www.daslandhilft.de/

More information about working while attending university:
https://www.stwno.de/de/beratung/geld-im-studium/jobben