Students sue over high fees

April 4, 2003

German universities' attempts to make money from administration fees have been thwarted by the courts, forcing them to consider more inventive fundraising schemes.

In 1997, the western state of Baden-Württemberg began charging fees for enrolment, re-enrolment and matriculation. Four students from the universities in Freiburg and Karlsruhe sued. They said that the €50 (£34) a semester fee was far above the €4 it cost to process enrolments. The excess was going into university coffers, a violation of the rules.

The Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the re-enrolment fees being charged by some universities were too high. The states of Berlin, Brandenburg and Lower Saxony all charge high fees.

Two new ideas for university funding have been suggested.

The Technical University of Munich has devised a programme to provide extra services for those willing to pay. Services such as student guidance, study abroad and 24-hour access to libraries, laboratories and computer rooms are impossible to provide with state and grant funding.

Hamburg's state senator for science and research, Jörg Drager, has suggested getting rid of Bafög , Germany's complicated and bureaucratic system of loans and scholarships for students from low-income families.

He would like to see the €1 billion Bafög fund used to create a low-interest loan system. Loans would not be due until after students graduated and had reached a certain income level.

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