Last September, the coalition government agreed to a one-time payment for students. Since December, the Students’ Energy Price Allowance Act has been in effect, but except for a few students in a trial phase, the vast majority of students cannot access the money or apply for it. Six months after the decision to provide this relief payment, millions of students are still waiting for their one-time payment of over €200.
The process was needlessly complicated, and there are significant data protection issues. Universities must provide the state with lists of all students, and based on these lists, the universities receive an access code and PIN for all eligible students, which they must then send to the students. This shifts the administrative work and responsibility to the universities, which must now manage this in a very short time. In addition, all students must create a “BundID” to finally be able to apply for the payment, which according to data protection expert Christian Aretz, is also not legally permissible. Even the data protection conference of the federal states criticizes this proposal.
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research, under the leadership of Bettina Stark-Watzinger, once again demonstrates a lack of willingness or competence to effectively help students. It is crucial that this one-time payment finally goes into the accounts of students from mid-March. In 2021, 37.9% of students were at risk of poverty, and with the continued increase in food, electricity, and heating costs, students are even more burdened. Against this background, the one-time payment is a drop in the bucket and brutally exposes the fact that students need much more profound help.
Instead of investing in an application tool for the one-time payment, other investments would have been more critical. For example, student services must be financially subsidized to counter further price increases in dormitories, canteens, and other social services. The expansion and renovation of student dormitories must be more heavily subsidized, and cost-effective and socially just mobility must be guaranteed for all students.
In a country like Germany, which views education as a cornerstone of a sustainable society, it is unacceptable that students are forced to drop out of their studies due to their financial and social circumstances. It should not be forgotten that education is the key to sustainable and positive shaping of the country’s future. Equality of opportunity in the education sector must, therefore, be guaranteed to give all students, regardless of their background, the opportunity to fully realize their potential and thus contribute to society.
We therefore demand that the financial difficulties of students be taken seriously. We demand higher subsidies for student services, cost-effective mobility for students of all ages, and direct financial relief for students in the form of parent-independent BAföG, otherwise the impression will be reinforced that the concerns of students are relegated to the back burner during crisis situations.