There are many reasons to come to Germany to study, but you are probably wondering how you will be able to afford it. Students often have questions like:
- Can I work during my studies?
- How expensive is tuition?
- How much is food, rent, and transportation for students?
Don’t worry! We know that traveling to a foreign country is a big step so we’re going to answer all of your questions and breakdown how much it costs for students to live in Germany. Luckily, Germany is a very affordable place for students to live. Students receive many benefits such as discounted insurance, a semester ticket with unlimited use of public transport, and discounts at movie theatres, live shows, restaurants, and museums. During your studies in Germany, you are generally allowed to do 120 full days or 240 half-days of paid work and take small student jobs so you can have a job to help support your stay in Germany.
Education: no tuition fees at public universities
When it comes to the cost of how much studying in Germany will cost you in regards to your study program, you can rest easy knowing that in Germany, there are no tuition fees. Public universities in Germany are tuition free for all students, even if you are not from the EU! Should you be interested in specialized programs or a private university, then you can count on paying some tuition fees, but even these are marginally less than tuition at universities outside of Germany. There is one exception to the free tuition rule and this is the state of Baden-Württemberg. Located in the southwest of Germany, Baden-Württemberg is the only state in Germany that charges tuition for non-EU students (1,500 € per semester). Should you have your heart set on one of the many prestigious universities in Baden-Württemberg, don’t be discouraged! There are often reduced tuition or waiver opportunities for students with special circumstances. Simply contact the admissions office of your program of choice.
Students should keep in mind when they are searching for universities, that every program in Germany will charge a semester contribution. However, this cost is not a tuition fee. The semester contribution is a marginal fee (average of 200 - 500 €) which covers administrative costs, campus student services, and a semester ticket which entitles you to unlimited use of local public transport. It is also important to note that all universities in and outside of Germany charge these costs. The difference is that universities outside of Germany will add these costs in addition to high tuition fees whereas in Germany, this would be the only cost students will incur. The semester contribution is required by all universities. In order to clear up exactly what these different costs are, let us break them down below:
Table: Tuition fees vs. Semester contribution
(Studiengebühren) in Public Universities
(Studiengebühren) in Private Universities
|Do I have to pay it?||No
(with few exceptions)*
|How much is it?||-||Averages 3,000 - 5,000 € per semester||Averages of 200 - 500 € per semester|
|What does it cover?||-||The study program||Administrative fees, campus services, and unlimited use of local public transport system|
*Exceptions: For executive master’s programs (e.g. MBA, LLM), students may have to pay tuition fees at public universities. Additionally, the state of Baden-Württemberg, located in the Southwest region of Germany, charges a small tuition fee (1,500 €/semester) for students coming from outside of the EU
Accomodation (Rent): Housing prices vary
Almost all universities in Germany offer student housing. Student housing is not free but is highly discounted in comparison to the average costs of living in each city. While there is no standard rate for student housing at a federal level and the costs depend on the city and university, you can expect that the rates will be much more. Students have many different options in choosing their housing. Even under the category of university student housing, there are usually different price categories depending on the type of flat you’d like to live in, if you prefer to live alone or in a shared flat, and where in the city you’d like to live. Student accommodation can range from 250 - 350 € on average depending on the conditions and location you choose. Remember that university housing always has a very high demand, so make sure you apply for a spot the moment you receive your acceptance letter as students typically wait months to receive an offer for housing.
If you opt out of university student housing and choose to find your accommodation individually, then you still have different options available such as a single flat, a shared apartment, or a furnished room. In Germany, the word for a shared flat is “Wohnungsgemeinschaft” which means “group living” or “group housing.” This is abbreviated as “WG” and there are online platforms where you can search for an open room in a WG. This is a very normal and popular option among students who opt out of living in university housing. The prices for a room in a WG vary and depend on the location, city, and house. In Berlin, for example, a WG room can range from 350 - 600 € whereas in smaller cities such as Bremen, the price can range between 300 - 400 €. Alternatively, a WG room in Munich would cost between 500 - 700 € on average as it is a richer city with higher rent prices.
Food and Drink: affordable, even on a night out!
Germany has some of the most affordable prices for food and groceries. Students coming from the US for example will be delighted as to how affordable it is to eat healthy in Germany. This applies to foods, vegetables, and basic grocery items as well as household items. Note, that this rule of cheaper groceries is only true if you are shopping at a grocery store. Prices at bars and restaurants can of course vary and are more expensive than grocery stores. There are also plenty of options on where to shop for your groceries such as discount supermarkets or open-air markets which will have more affordable items. On average, students can expect to spend about 150 - 200 € a month for grocery items.
Most campuses have cafeterias, cafes, and even bars for students to use. The cafeterias and cafes are discounted for students, this access provided by the campus services which the semester contribution helps pay for. Bars, cafes, and restaurants are popular among students and can be very affordable. Be sure to look for happy hour specials or go to restaurants during lunch hours instead of dinner as lunch specials are always less expensive, even if you’re ordering the same food.
Public Transport and Travel: free - thanks to the semester ticket
A great perk of the semester contribution is that it includes a semester ticket which provides you with unlimited use of the local public transport system. Buses, metro (Ubahn and Sbahn), and trams are all at your disposal! The semester ticket is another perk that you receive as a student in Germany as universities around the globe do not usually include an unlimited transportation pass as part of their fees.
A student ID also gives you access to many discounts for transportation throughout Germany as well. Many students take advantage of this and travel during their studies, throughout Germany as well as throughout Europe, students have many affordable travel options to choose from. The DeutscheBahn (DB) is the main railway in Germany to take trains to travel all over the country. DB offers a student price for their Bahncard 25, a year long membership card which gives you access to discounted train ticket prices and exclusive offers. Anyone can purchase a Bahncard 25, but students have a special price available only with their student ID. So get ready to hit the road and explore Germany!
Health insurance: discounted fees for all students
Germany’s public healthcare system is pretty well known around the globe, and as a student, you will also have access to this healthcare as it is a requirement in Germany. Students in Germany benefit from highly discounted rates from public insurance providers. The health insurance contribution for students is fixed by law and amounts to 100 - 120 € per month. Should you be interested in private insurance, which is more expensive but also available for students, then you have many great private insurance options to choose from as well. For private health insurance, the contributions fluctuate radically. In some cases, they correspond to the statutory contribution but can also be considerably higher (up to several hundred euros per month).
Language Courses: from free to professional high cost courses
While you don’t have to be fluent in German (or speak German at all for that matter) to study and live in Germany, once you arrive you may be eager to get to know the local language. As a student, you have many options to take German language courses. Below are a few options which most students have for learning German:
German courses at your university
Universities usually offer German classes for their international students for credit or for no credit, students can decide. Just look out for the Language Center (Sprachenzentrum) at your university!
German courses at a German language school
There are plenty of German schools that have certified language teachers and provide tests that issue certificates of German language advancement. The most renowned public language school is the Goethe-Institut which you might also know from your home country (there are more than 150 institutes in almost 100 countries worldwide). The private market for language schools is so large, that no single provider can be singled out. Whether public or private, these schools cost money and can be affordable or expensive, it depends on the school which is right for you.
Free or low-cost German classes from German native speakers
These are usually fellow students who may work at the language institute at your university and create basic lesson plans for non-native speakers. Normally these classes are more informal and do not offer an official language certificate and are meant to introduce you to the language.
Entertainment: movies, nightlife, university sports, and more!
Students need to take a break from studying and Germany has plenty of options to keep their students entertained and give them a rest from seminars. Depending on which city you live in, you have different options available to you. Be sure to carry your student ID with you anywhere you go, as you can receive a student discount in many places with a student ID. Movie theatres, museums, restaurants, cafes, concerts, and even theme parks or spas offer discounts for students. If you make plans with friends to go out to eat, going out for lunch is always more affordable than dinner as lunch specials offer the same food options for less. Universities also host events for students with discounted food and beverages, so keep an eye out for that too!
One offer that you should not miss is the university sports (Hochschulsport) which is offered by all bigger universities. From American Football to Zumba, you will surely find a sport that you can practice on campus at affordable prices. Moreover, it’s a great opportunity to get to know other students!