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College as a parent: can it be done?

Maternity rights for students

Katja Mayer 16.11.2016
Since the Bologna Reform, college study has become strictly organized and doesn’t leave much room for individual freedom. Does that really allow any time to have children? The easy answer is yes, of course! 

You might be surprised to learn that the organizational and financial support you are offered when you become a parent could hardly be better than when you’re also a college student. It’s actually harder after graduation, when you will finally have to cope with entering the workplace, starting to build a career and gaining initial work experience. But college as a parent is definitely still a challenge – one which you can only overcome with lots of support. But you’ll only find it if you know where to look. Like here...

Maternity rights for students

Some protective regulations apply to student mothers-to-be. These are roughly equivalent to the maternity rights of female workers. So you aren’t allowed to take any exams in the last six weeks before your due date unless expressly agreed. In the eight weeks following the birth, you’re not even allowed to take exams voluntarily. This period is extended to twelve weeks in the event of premature or multiple births.

If you have to work in a laboratory with hazardous substances during your studies, you are exempt for the duration of your pregnancy. Your college is required to give you any necessary help so that you can graduate as planned. That means hiring an assistant to perform mandatory experiments for you, for example.

If conflict arises because, for example, you can’t do a mandatory internship, you can refer your case to the equal opportunity representative at your faculty or college. They will then support you accordingly.

Help with child care

Nowadays all colleges offer well-developed daycare centers and kindergartens that complement the facilities provided by the local authority and churches in your college town. Some daycare centers take children from as early as eight weeks old. Your child even has a legal right to a daycare slot from the age of one year.

Nannies are a possible alternative to placing your child in daycare facilities. Bear in mind that not all federal states have enough spaces in daycare, despite your legal right to have one. You can get a list of eligible nannies from the youth welfare office. These authorities will even bear the cost if you can’t afford childcare, or if you would have to drop out of college without it.

You might also want to take a semester off to be there for the first few months of your child’s life. You should submit the necessary application to the admissions office at your college. The good: Since your semester off only counts as a university semester, but not as a subject-related semester, the time period in which you are eligible for your federal student financial aid is extended. The bad: You won’t get any money while you’re on leave, and you also won't be allowed to take exams during that time.

Financial tips

If you receive federal student financial aid, you are entitled to €113 per month for your first child and €85 for each subsequent child. In addition, your pregnancy and parenthood lengthen the maximum funding period to up to seven semesters – and the additional money takes the form of a grant that doesn’t need to be paid back.

Furthermore, you are entitled to parental benefit payments. If you didn’t have a job before becoming a parent, you will receive €300 a month. If you have subsequent children, there is a sibling bonus of €75. Make sure to apply with the parental benefit authority within three months of the birth, since this benefit can only be granted retroactively for three months at most.

Every child is also entitled to child benefit payments from birth, provided that at least one parent has a permanent residence permit. Child benefit payments are not offset against your federal student financial aid or parental benefit payments and they amount to €184 for the first two children, €190 for the third, and €215 for each subsequent child. You must apply for this from the family office.

Students generally aren’t allowed to claim unemployment benefits or housing supplements, because they qualify for other kinds of financial aid such as federal student financial aid. You can, however, enjoy these benefits if you aren’t eligible for federal student financial aid because you’re taking a semester off, and caring for your child is preventing you from supporting yourself with a job.

Last but not least, Germany has a large number of charities that support students in every possible scenario. One example is the  "Mutter und Kind" (Mother and Child) foundation, which grants financial support of up to €2,242.50 a month, and one-off grants of between €517 and €690 for baby equipment, to parents-to-be with low incomes. Be sure to apply for financial support immediately after the birth of your baby.

Psychological support

Despite all this, becoming a parent – particularly for the first two years – is a major challenge, and not just during college. You’ll learn to get by with very little, and very irregular, sleep. And in the meantime you’ll have to get used to organizing yourself so that you can use any free moment. Not just to study, but to relax as well.

There is help available to ease the burden, however, including your student union’s psychological counseling center and the life and family counseling services usually offered by churches. And obviously, there are friends and family.

Becoming a parent is never easy, especially for the first time, but there’s rarely as much support available as when you’re in college.