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The Danish students' Grants and Loans Scheme

Danish students are entitled to public support for their further education - regardless of social standing. Tuition at Danish public and most private educational institutions is free for Danish students and for EU/EEA students as well as for students participating in an exhange programme. All other students have to pay a tuition fee. Society lends students a helping hand in covering living costs for a great variety of courses and studies. Support for students' living costs is awarded by the State Educational Grant and Loan Scheme (Danish acronym: "SU" and "SU-lån"), a system managed by the Danish Agency for Institutions and Educational Grants (Styrelsen for Institutioner og Uddannelsesstøtte) in collaboration with the educational institutions and under the auspices of the Ministry of Higher Education and Science.

Over 493.000 (2016) Students benefit from these two types of educational support every year. The annual budget amounts to 24,4 billion Danish Kroner, around 1 per cent of Gross National Product.

There are two main support programmes

  1. For people over 18 following a youth education program
    For people over 18 following a youth education program i.e. a general upper secondary, vocational upper secondary or vocational education and training program. Students must attend classes, sit examinations and in other ways demonstrate that they are active in their educational programmes. No time limits are placed on this type of support. Students are eligible for support for any number of courses, with the exception of certain upper secondary programmes. Until students are 20, their grants depend upon their parents' income. When that exceeds a certain amount the grants are reduced on a sliding scale, ending in a minimum grant.
  2. For students enrolled in higher education courses
    Every student enrolled in a higher education course is entitled to a number of monthly grants. When the student starts his or her education, we grant SU corresponding to the education’s prescribed duration in months. If the student is admitted to his or her first higher education course no later than two years after his or her first completed qualifying exam, the student receives SU to the prescribed duration of the education + 12 extra grant portions. Inside a maximum of 70 grants students can change from one course to another. If the student is studying at a higher education course and has used all his or her grant portions, the student can some times receive a completion loan in the last year of his or her studies.

All students (1 and 2) living with their parents are supported with a lower grant than students living in lodgings. Students under 20 enrolled in a youth education program are supported as if they are living with their parents whether they do so or not, but may apply for an exemption.

Students who accept support in a year in which their private earnings exceed a set amount have to repay some of the grants and loans received that year plus 7%. However, they have the option of not accepting support for a period of time thus enlarging the set amount.

Students in higher education (under a time limitation) have the choice of using these grants later, to prolong their studies (for instance, to prepare for re-examination after a failed exam).

In particular situations - mainly sickness and childbirth - students can apply for extra monthly grants. New mothers are eligible for 12 and new fathers for 6 extra monthly grants, with certain stipulations.

Altogether the rules make for a flexible system. Students have the option of organising their studies according to their personal preferences and earning possibilities. At the same time, however, they incur a measure of personal accountability for managing their financial situation.

State loans

In combination with both types (1 and 2) of grants, students are offered supplementary state loans. The loan must be repaid within 7-15 years. Students must start paying back state loans no later than one year after the end of the year in which they graduate or give up their studies.

The interest rate for these loans is set by Parliament.

When students have been awarded an SU loan, they will get a loan plan in minSU. Students must approve their loan plan and accept the terms of the loan (see the terms here), before the Agency can pay the SU loan. 

You can find more information regarding State Education Loans here.

Private earnings

Fribeløb

Your yearly "fribeløb" is calculated from January to December. It is the maximum amount of money you are allowed to earn besides your SU. If you earn more, you have to pay back all or some of your SU and any SU-loan.

Your yearly "fribeløb" is composed of 12 monthly "fribeløb" – one for each month. Your monthly "fribeløb" can consist of three different rates (lowest, medium and highest monthly "fribeløb"). The rate of the specific "fribeløb" depends on your situation for the particular month. When you calculate your yearly "fribeløb" , you have to add the 12 different monthly "fribeløb" together.

See the rates for monthly "fribeløb" here

How to calculate your yearly "fribeløb"

Your yearly "fribeløb" depends on how many months of SU or slutlån you receive during the year. Your income each year has to keep within the yearly "fribeløb" – it does not matter if you earn a big amount one month and then earn nothing for another month, as long as you keep within the yearly amount, you do not have to pay SU or any SU-loan back.

Most recipients of SU can use our calculator to calculate their yearly "fribeløb"

Avoid paying back your SU

You can keep track of your income and wether or not you will surpass your yearly "fribeløb". If you realize that you will earn too much, you can expand your "fribeløb" by deselecting one or more months of SU and by that increase your monthly "fribeløb".

Deselect SU for a period

Your income when you start or finish your education

The year you either start or finish your education is possibly covered by the rules of "periodisering".

Read more about "periodisering" here

"Periodisering" of your income

If you have earned too much in the year that you either started or finished your education, you can avoid having to pay back SU, if you fulfill the rules of "periodisering".

"Priodisering" means that we only look at your income and your "fribeløb" for the months (‘periods’) you have been enrolled at an educational institution.

If you’re covered by the rules of "periodisering", you don’t have to pay back SU, if you keep your income within the "fribeløb" for the months where you’ve been enrolled at an educational institution (Uddannelsesfribeløb).

Conditions of "periodisering"

You fulfill the rules of "periodisering" if: 

  • you’re not enrolled at an educational institution in January or December, or
  • you haven’t been enrolled at an educational institution for at least four months in a year (if for example you finish your education in June and are not enrolled for the months from July till October).

If you fulfill the requirements it means that you can earn an unlimited amount in those months where you’re not enrolled at an educational institution. You have to be aware that the standard rules of ‘fribeløb and income’ still are in effect in the months you’re enrolled at an educational institution. If you do not fulfill one of the conditions for "periodisering", your total income for the entire year still counts.

No longer enrolled

It is important that you’re no longer enrolled at any educational institution. It is not sufficient that you’re on leave, is study inactive or for any other reasons isn’t receiving teaching or taking examns. You’re still under education if you start your masters immediately after your bachelor’s degree.

To your advantage

By the end of the year, we calculate you yearly income. If your total income surpasses your “fribeløb”, you will have to pay some of your SU and SU-loan (if you have received it). If you live up to one of the two conditions of "periodisering", we will then automatically make a new calculation where we only consider your income in the months in which you were enrolled at an educational institution. It will never be a disadvantage to you due to the fact that we only use the new calculation if it means you will have to pay back less than you would have to if we used the regular, standard calculations.

How to calculate your "uddannelsesfribeløb"

If you live up to the conditions of "periodisering", you need only to calculate your "fribeløb" for the specific months in which you were enrolled at an educational institution. You are able to calculate your ‘uddannelsesfribeløb’ the same way as you normally calculate your regular ‘årsfribeløb’ on the basis of the rates of "fribeløb".

The way we calculate your "periodiserede" personal income

As a general rule, we calculate your ’periodiserede’ personal income on the same basis as your personal income for the whole year with the following changes: Your "periodiserede" personal income contains the specific part of your income that is registered on ‘eIndkomst’ in a period that lies within a period of enrollment at an educational institution.
There are different rules as to how employers need to register income on SKAT’s ‘eIndkomstregistret’. In your tax file on skat.dk, you are able to see in which period of payment your employer has registered your income. You are also able to contact your employer if you are unsure of the period your employer has registered your income to be within or if you are of the opinion that your employer has made a mistake when registering your period of payment.
We cannot exempt for any income registered on ‘eIndkomst’ in a period of payment that falls within a period of enrollment at an educational institution irrespective of when the income acquired.

The period of payment is different from the period of enrollment at an educational institution

If you have earned anything besides your SU and a part of your period of payment lies outside of the period of enrollment at an educational institution, we divide and distribute your income equally between the days within the period of payment. Only your income in the days that lie within a period of enrollment at an educational institution count in the calculation of your income if you fulfil the conditions of "periodisering".

Holiday allowance

Holiday allowance ("feriepenge") is a part of your income the year it is taxed. Furthermore, if an income has been ‘periodiseret’ it is a determining factor which period of payment your employer register on SKAT’s ‘eIndkomst’. There is no possibility of exemption within the SU-regulations.

There are different rules concerning the way employers register holiday allowance on ‘eIndkomst’. Contact your employer if you are unsure of the period of payment your employer has registered your holiday allowance to be within or if you are of the opinion that your employer has made a mistake when registering your holiday allowance.

Income that is not registered on ’eIndkomst’ (i.e. corporate profits, interest income and equity income)

If you have an income that has not been registered on "eIndkomstregistret" at Skattestyrelsen, we divide and distribute your income equally between months in the year this specific income was taxed. Examples of such incomes are corporate profits, interest income and equity income. If you for instance have been enrolled at an educational institution from August until December in a year of receiving SU, we add five twelfths of your income that has been taxed within the same year but not registered on ‘eIndkomst’, to your ‘periodiserede’ personal income.

Exemption

In particular cases we are able to exempt from the relative distribution of income that is not registered in ‘eIndkomstregistret’. We can excempt after a concrete assesement in cases where a student has an income that is not registered in eIndkomstregistret but still resembles incomes that is normally registered in "eIndkomstregistret" or when solid and clear documentation can prove that the income is solely earned during a time the student has not been enrolled an educational institution.

Increase of the "fribeløb"

If you are a parent and entitled to a higher fribeløb, your fribeløb will be increased per month.

Studies abroad

Danes can obtain support for studies abroad. Courses of study have to meet the same conditions for recognition as Danish ones. Furthermore, the qualifications acquired must be usable in Denmark.

For studies in the Nordic countries support is awarded for the prescribed duration of the chosen study (plus 12 months, if the student is admitted to his or her first higher education no later than two years after the first completed qualifying exam). For studies in other foreign countries, students are supported for four-year courses or for the last four years of longer ones.

Support granted for studies in Denmark can be used to finance studies abroad when they are accepted as part of a study program at a Danish institution.

Foreign citizen

As a rule, foreign students enrolled in Danish courses of study are not eligible for educational support. Exceptions are made on the basis of specific conditions for refugees and relatives of refugees and for other foreign citizens provided - among other stipulations - that they have been living and working in Denmark long enough.

As far as EU rules and regulations make it possible, EU citizens can gain support from the Danish system.

Application and guidance

You apply for SU in the self-service system "minSU". You must have a NemID in order to log on minSU from the front page of su.dk.
You can at the earliest receive SU from the month where you apply for SU and you cannot receive SU with retrospective effect. You can read more about the conditions for receiving SU here (in Danish).
The final date for applying for SU is the last day of the month. If, for instance, you want SU from the month of August, you must apply for SU in minSU on 31 August at the latest. The final date for applying for SU in a year is 5 December. If you apply after 5 December, you can at the earliest receive SU in January the year after.
For more guidance about SU, please contact your place of education. See contact information here.

The system - the educational institutions

Schools and universities - receive applications in minSU for support from students, check them and pass them on to the agency. They offer general and personal information and guidance to students. They check that students observe study requirements.

The Agency

Prepares amendments of the scheme, registers applications, pays out grants and loans, offers guidance and information to the educational institutions, deals with complaints and appeals (which are decided by a Board of Appeal), draws up budgets and collects statistics for the use of the Ministry.

The Ministry

Presents bills providing for amendments to the scheme and is responsible for overall planning and budgeting for grants and loans.

If you want to know more about SU, you can read the report "Costs of study, student income, and study behaviour in Denmark".