When deciding on whether or not to study abroad, students and parents alike will be faced with questions over the cost of study that would otherwise not be relevant to a student who follows the usual route of studying in their home country. Even a single term can carry associated costs that would not be faced by a student studying in their home country, so undertaking a whole degree abroad can be a financial challenge.
The positive aspect
One positive point is that tuition fees in Germany were abolished in the Autumn of 2014 for undergraduate students in public universities, for both international students and German residents. This applies only to those undertaking their first, undergraduate course of study, and not to postgraduate students who will continue to pay tuition for Masters or PhD courses of study. This change is however beneficial to those who have only recently begun considering a course of study at a German university, and will no doubt help students looking to study abroad in Germany.
It is worth bearing in mind that this applies only to public universities, who draw the majority of their funding from the government, and not private institutions, which will continue to charge tuition as they rely on these fees as their sole source of funding. This can be as high as €20,000 per year, whereas private universities often only charged around €500 per term.
For those at private universities, the only remaining charge with regards to attendance of the university is called the Semester Contribution, which usually totals around €150-€250. This is a requirement of all students and goes towards the cost of administration, running school facilities and student accommodation. However, it does also finance a bus ticket that is valid for the semester, so it is beneficial to the student.
Cost of living
After this charge, consideration needs to be given to the cost of living whilst studying in Germany, as these costs can quickly mount up if not budgeted well. Although German students can remain at home with their parents, international students do not have this option. Costs will vary depending upon the region and the relative size of the city in which the university is based. Some students prefer to share accommodation rather than live alone, in order to cut costs down.
The typical cost of living in university-owned accommodation is around €200-€400, and students should apply early for the best chance of securing one of these cheaper rooms. Alternatively, it's roughly €300-€500 if staying in a room within shared accommodation. Opting to live alone in an apartment outside of shared accommodation can mean paying anywhere upwards of €400 or €500.
Aside from accommodation, thought needs to be given to other living and study costs. With regards to study materials, these can often total around €50 each semester. It is difficult to put a price on food, as it can vary from person to person and depend on whether preference is given to cooking at home, eating in the cafeteria, or eating at restaurants often. Clothing also needs to be factored in, though this will depend entirely on the person and whether they are happy to get-by with the same clothes year-round. For students coming from other countries to study abroad in Germany, there are likely additional costs to consider, such as plane tickets to visit friends and family outside of term time.
A good habit to adopt is to carefully assess the lifestyle one has prior to university, and then calculate what will be required to maintain that lifestyle whilst studying. It is always safer to over-budget than under-budget, and ensure that financial security will not be a concern.