Higher Education Tuition Fees in Germany

Public universities in Germany are funded by the federal states and do not charge tuition fees. However, all enrolled students do have to pay a semester fee (Semesterbeitrag). This fee consists of an administrative fee for the university (only in some of the states), a fee for Studentenwerk, which is a statutory student affairs organization, a fee for the university's AStA (Allgemeiner Studentenausschuss, students' government) and Studentenschaft (students' union), at many universities a fee for public transportation, and possibly more fees as decided by the university's students' parliament (e.g., for a cooperation with a local theater granting free entry for students). Summed up, the semester fee usually ranges between €150 and €350.

In 2005, the German Federal Constitutional Court ruled that a federal law prohibiting tuition fees was unconstitutional, on the grounds that education is the sole responsibility of the states. Following this ruling, seven federal states introduced tuition fees of €500 per semester in 2006 and 2007. Due to massive student protests and a citizens' initiative which collected 70,000 signatures against tuition fees, the government of Hesse was the first to reverse course before the state election in 2008; other state governments soon followed. Several parties which spoke out for tuition fees lost state elections. Bavaria in 2013 and Lower Saxony in 2014 were the last states to abolish tuition fees.

Since 1998, all German states had introduced tuition fees for long-time students (Langzeitstudiengebühren) of €500 up to €900 per semester. These fees are required for students who study substantially longer than the standard period of study (Regelstudienzeit), which is a defined number of semesters for each degree program. Even after the abolition of general tuition fees, tuition fees for long-time students remain in six states. Additionally, universities may charge tuition fees for so called non-consecutive master's degree programs, which do not build directly on a bachelor's degree, such as a Master of Business Administration.

With much controversy, the state of Baden-Württemberg has reintroduced tuition fees at public universities starting in 2017. From autumn 2017, students who are not citizens of an EU/EEA member state are expected to pay €1,500 per semester. Students who enroll for their second degree in Germany are expected to pay €650 per semester regardless of their country of origin. Although heavily criticised in Germany, the amount is considered below average in comparison with other European countries.

There are university-sponsored scholarships in Germany and a number of private and public institutions award scholarships--usually to cover living costs and books. There is a state-funded study loan programme, called BAföG (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz, "Federal Education Aid Act"). It ensures that less wealthy students can receive up to €735 per month for the standard period of study if they or their parents cannot afford all of the costs involved with studying. Furthermore, students need to have a prospect of remaining in Germany to be eligible; this includes German and EU citizens, but often also long-term residents of other countries. Part (typically half) of this money is an interest-free loan that is later repaid, with the other half considered a free grant, and the amount to be repaid is capped at €10,000. Currently, around a quarter of all students in Germany receive financial support via BAföG.

For international students there are different approaches to get a full scholarship or a funding of their studies. To be able to get a scholarship a successful application is mandatory. It can be submitted upon arrival in Germany as well as after arrival. But due to the fact that many scholarships are only available to students who are already studying, the chances of an acceptance are limited for applicants from abroad. Therefore, many foreign students have to work in order to finance their studies.