Foto: Juraj Varga / Pixabay, Montage: CHE

The number of new student loans taken out in Germany fell considerably in 2021 compared to the previous year. The KfW Student Loan had been made available to international students temporarily in the form of coronavirus emergency assistance. When this exemption ended, the number of new contracts fell by 37 per cent compared to the previous year. These are the findings of the annual evaluation conducted as part of the CHE Student Loan Test 2022.

Around 76,000 students in Germany currently receive money from a student loan or education fund. A total of around €41 million is paid out to students each month, averaging €532 per capita.

While the number of new contracts fell steadily between 2014 and 2019, it shot up by 60 percentage points to over 52,000 new customers in 2020. This was because the contractual modalities governing the state-run offer had changed after being introduced in the context of coronavirus emergency assistance by Germany’s Federal Government in the summer of 2020. These changes meant, among other things, that the KfW Student Loan was provided interest-free for a limited period and made available to foreign students.

“The impact of the Covid-related changes that Anja Karliczek, Federal Minister of Education and Research at that time, had initiated was nothing more than a flash in the pan,” summarised Ulrich Müller. “When the special conditions for international students expired, demand for student loans promptly fell to pre-Covid levels,” stated the Head of Policy Studies at the CHE Centre for Higher Education. Overall, the number of new contracts concluded in 2021 fell by 37 per cent to around 33,000 compared to the previous year.

Not only the importance of KfW Student Loans, but also that of the second government-backed offer – the Federal Office of Administration’s Education Loan – continues to decline heavily. In this case, the number of new loan agreements fell from 20,000 in 2010 to less than 6,000 in 2021.

“Neither of these two state-run options, which account for more than 90 per cent of all current student loan products in Germany, offer optimal conditions; demand for them is steadily declining. A fundamental restart for student finance in Germany is long overdue – in the process, it is essential to consider state-run loan offers in conjunction with a reform of the BAföG student grant,” declared the expert on student funding at CHE, Ulrich Müller.

Some 190,000 borrowers are currently in the repayment phase of their student loan – with the debt burden increasing in some cases. After all, the annual survey of providers conducted by CHE revealed rising interest rates on repayment in the terms and conditions of many providers.

CHE’s financial expert Müller advises graduates who are concerned about being unable to pay their student loan instalments due to inflation and price increases, especially in energy costs, to contact their loan providers well in advance and, if necessary, agree on an adjustment or a short-term deferral of instalments.

New to the provider market is the startup Lendorse, which offers loans specifically for non-EU students, among other things. This group of students was previously unable to obtain a student loan in Germany.

Many of the 53 student loans and education funds tested in this year’s CHE Student Loan Test 2022 gained top marks in several of the five assessment categories (access, volume, costs, risk mitigation and flexibility).

  About the CHE Student Loan Test

The CHE Student Loan Test 2022, developed in collaboration with Handelsblatt, was published this year for the seventeenth time. Using 21 individual criteria, it assesses the advantages and disadvantages of 53 student loans that are currently on offer. The test is based on information given by the loan providers. The wide range of detailed information provided in the publication gives students and prospective students a transparent overview of the market. In addition, students can use tables to calculate their individual requirements. The CHE Student Loan Test is freely available at www.che-studienkredit-test.de.