German Ministry of Education Needlessly Delayed Corona Emergency Aid for Students

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There had been unnecessary delays in providing the COVID-19 emergency aid to students across Germany who faced financial hardship amid the pandemic, according to emails between the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Deutsches Studentenwerk (German National Association for Student Affairs – DSW).

Hundreds of emails exchanged between BMBF and DSW from March to July 2020, which were seen by the German student magazine ZEIT Campus revealed that the Ministry of Education set wrong priorities and unnecessarily delayed for weeks the emergency aid that students had to receive.

BMBF started providing financial assistance to students in need during the COVID-19 pandemic in June 2020, reports.

Since then, the so-called bridging aid has often been criticized. Students began to get even more frustrated when a large number of aid applications were rejected in June 2020. Back then, of the 82,000 applications for emergency aid submitted by students, 46 percent were rejected. The rejection rate in July 2020 was 63 percent, leaving many applicants confused about this.

“Are you serious? I have 3 euros in my account, I haven’t had a job since February and I sent in my bank statements from March to the application date. What’s the point?” a student from Frankfurt am Main tweeted in June 2020.

According to the ZEIT Campus report, on March 20, 2020, DSW contacted the Ministry to resolve the issue of students in need, who lost their jobs during the pandemic, proposing the grant solution, which meant providing up to €800 to students, but such a proposal was rejected by the Ministry.

Instead, the Ministry proceeded with the loan model – a loan that would be paid by respective student unions.

By April 30, BMBF decided to accept the idea of the grant proposed by DSW, and when ZEIT Campus asked the Ministry about the reasons why it continued with the loan model for so long, the latter said that the grant idea was more complicated. The Ministry’s concern was the possibility of misusing grants, as there could be people who would receive aid without needing it.

“That’s why more complex tests were necessary for the grant than for the loan, which contradicted the BMBF’s efforts to provide help quickly,” a spokesman for the Ministry was quoted as saying by the student magazine.

109,000 students who lost their jobs received relief from BMBF for at least one month during the pandemic. The Ministry provided €500 to students who in their bank accounts had less than €100 while those who had less than €500 received €100 in their accounts.

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