Students at RWTH Aachen University do not pay tuition fees – however, you must pay a semester fee each semester for re-registration. This amounts to €303.49 this winter semester. In this article, we want to explain how this is calculated, who decides and what happens to your money.

How is the semester fee calculated?
The semester fee is made up of the mobility fee (€182.31), the social contribution (€98.00) and the student body contribution (€13.18).

The mobility fee
The term “mobility fee” is actually just a bureaucratic term for the price of the semester ticket. This is €182.31 for the winter semester. Of this, €176.40 is for the Deutschlandticket and €5.91 for the extension to South Limburg (Netherlands).

At €29.40 per month, the price of the Germany ticket is linked to 60% of the price of the €49 ticket. The price for the extension in the Netherlands is negotiated on behalf of the RWTH students by the AStA, the Finance Department and the Chair of the Mobility Committee.

The social fee
The social fee supports the work of the Studierendenwerk (StW). This amounts to € 108.00 in the summer semester 2024.

The social contribution is primarily used to keep the prices for the catering services (the canteens) as low as possible. The amount is determined by the Studierendenwerk’s administrative board, 4 of the 9 seats there are occupied by students. Three students come from the RWTH and one from the FH. Our three representatives are elected by the student parliament.

The student body fee
The student body fee makes up the smallest part of the semester fee. In the winter semester, this amounts to €13.18. Of this, € 6.85 goes to the AStA. This money is used, for example, to finance the bicycle repair shop, counseling services (including lawyers), cultural and political education events, short-term social loans and student elections. The administrative costs of the AStA and expense allowances for project managers who are particularly committed to the student body also come from this pot. If you want to know exactly how much money goes where, you can read about it in the AStA budget ( ).

The second highest part of the student body contribution is the amount for the student councils (€ 2.00). Student councils are the student representatives in the faculties of the RWTH and thus a part of student self-administration. The student councils represent students vis-à-vis the faculties, organize the Freshers’ Week and are usually the first point of contact for problems during studies. In total, our student body is divided into 18 student councils.

This is followed by the childcare contribution of €1.50. This is used to finance inexpensive childcare places that are available to students with children. 1.10 is used to finance the sports department, which provides financial support to sports groups and represents them vis-à-vis the university. Currently, 50 cents goes to the student aid fund. This fund is used for long-term social loans for students in financial difficulties. The Queerreferat receives 53 cents and the university radio station receives 50 cents. The semester fee hardship fund is also supported with 20 cents. This is used to finance refunds of the semester fee in cases of social hardship. You can find out more here. The fees are set and controlled by the student parliament and its committees.

Increase in the social contribution

In addition to the increase in material costs, the increase in the social contribution was decided this semester mainly due to the following points:

  • From March 1, 2024, there will be a pay rise in the TVöD which, calculated for 2024, will increase the costs for personnel by 4%.
  • The state subsidy to StW Aachen will be reduced by €444,000 in 2024. Overall, the subsidy paid to all Studierendenwerke in NRW will remain the same, but StW Aachen will receive less subsidy than in the previous year due to higher sales revenues at the other Studierendenwerke in 2022.
  • In the past, parts of the workforce were employed via a GmbH, StW Aachen SERVICE GmbH. This structure meant that these employees were not entitled to be paid in accordance with the collective agreement of a public law institution. On January 1, 2024, the employees were transferred from this GmbH to the AöR. This was decided by the Administrative Board in the middle of last year. This will result in higher expenses in 2024 due to the application of a different collective agreement.

The canteen prices for students will remain stable for the time being due to the increase, but there will be a price adjustment for all other canteen guests to reflect the additional costs described above.

What are the reasons for refunding the semester fee?

There are different reasons that entitle one to have part of the semester fee refunded: The mobility contribution may be partially reimbursed in the following cases:

  • Disability or chronic illness
  • Early de-registration
  • Late enrollment
  • Leave of absence
  • Possession of a Deutschlandticket from another university/university of applied sciences
  • Study-related stay outside the area of validity of more than 4 months
  • Social hardship (in this case, the student body fee is also reimbursed; more information on this can be found here.)

With the exception of the refund in case of social hardship, it is not possible to use the semester ticket after the refund. You can find more information here.

The social contribution for the Studierendenwerk can only be reimbursed in exceptional cases. An exemption is granted in the case of a leave of absence for the following reasons:

  • Completion of basic military service or alternative civilian service
  • Study abroad
  • Illness, pregnancy or raising a child
  • Care of spouse, registered partner(s) or a relative in a direct line (parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren)

The application for reimbursement of the social contribution is submitted to the RWTH Registrar’s office. You can download the form to be submitted there here.

How has the semester fee developed?
You have probably noticed that the semester fee has often risen in recent years. You can also see the growth in the graph. There are several reasons for the increase in fees:

  1. The cost of the semester ticket increases regularly. The price reduction is due to the switch to the Deutschlandticket.
  2. There has been a gradual increase in the social contribution. The amount of the contribution is mainly due to the fact that over the last 30 years the state of NRW has reduced its subsidy share of the contribution and therefore more and more of the Studierendenwerk’s costs have had to be covered by the student body.
  3. The student body contribution varies from semester to semester. The exact contribution depends heavily on how the budget planning for the financial year looks, which means that the contribution can fluctuate by a few tens of cents.