Poverty amongst students

I read in the news that there more and more students have to go get their food from the so-called “Tafeln” in Germany. These welfare groups give out groceries almost for free to those who are in need. Those groceries mostly have been provided by local supermarkets because they can’t be sold anymore (but still are good to eat).

In order to go home with a bag full of semi-fresh groceries you have to stand in line, pay a low amount of money and proof your poverty by showing a certain ID-card. On one hand this is a good way to make sure less food is going to waste and to help the poor, but on the other hand it is also embarassing for those people in the queue to show openly that they don’t have enough money to live off.

The article also stated that there is to be a “Tafel” established on campus of Münster University (a really well-known university town) since there is a desperate need for it. It honestly didn’t surprise me that students in Germany aren’t always able to make a living. According to a survey the average student makes around 864 Euros a month whilst the poverty rate ranges at 960 Euros. So even with student discounts it is hard to cope with this amount of money.

But the reality looks way different than that. There are a lot students living beneath the average figure stated by the newspaper (since there is a huge gap between incomes). In reality poverty amongst students – especially from working-class families – is common and many would be happy to have those 864 Euros because their families can’t afford a costly course of studies or they can’t even make enough by working part-time.

In theory there also exists a system called “BAföG” to support students in the welfare-state Germany. It was once introduced in the 70s in order to make it possible for working-class children to attend university by giving them a mothly amount of money as a loan. Only half of the money has to be paid back to the state after a few years (without interest). But what sounds like a good way to support students is a highly regulated system which depends on many different factors. It regulates how much a recipient is allowed to work for their maintenance, takes parental income into account and overall forces many into poverty that way.  In theory a student may get a maximum of 670 Euros, but only a small percentage receive that much (e.g. if your parents live off welfare-money). But other than that the average student receives 334 Euros. Even with the allowed amount of money a student can make by working (450 Euros) it doesn’t make living because the system counts on parents to step in.

But what if your parents aren’t able to do so?  The recent event in Münster and the acutal need for facilities giving out food shows that this so-called social security system fails to secure students. It shows that there is a higher need for ways of support and that “BAföG” is not enough to live off.

Society thinks, that it is possible to study without (financial) aid, but it isn’t. There acutally is a rising number of working-class children studying (also encouraged by “BAföG”) but it is far less than children of Academic families attending University. In the statistics this huge number of Academic children compensate those with lower income resulting in the numbers stated in the article.

On one hand everybody gets encouraged by the state to study, to be a citizen with good education who is able to give the state something in return. Every good educated citizen gives the State money, in the form of taxes, reputation and so on. Everybody is human capital to the state. In Germany with its highly export oriented economy it is extremely important to treasure knowledge and support the need to study further.

The german state on the other hand tries to encourage people to study with the help of a 40-year-old system that urgently needs to be updated and levelled to general income. There’s no use of a free educational system if people can’t afford to study or have to drop out because they don’t know how to make ends meet. Students don’t need riches but an amount of money that enables them to live without shame and relying on welfare. Someone who is willing to stand in line on campus with everybody to see really is in need.


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