The parties currently negotiating the formation of a new Dutch government are discussing plans to re-introduce student grants, either as they were before or in some new guise. So De Telegraaf reported today. The parties have yet to arrive at an agreement regarding the plans.

Of the four political parties involved in the government-formation talks, the two Christian parties are highly opposed to the current student loan system. CDA seeks to re-introduce student grants for Bachelor students. For its part, ChristenUnie would like to re-introduce them for Master students, as well.

However, the money needed to fund all these grants is yet to be found. The budget for next year already comes with a €500 million deficit, partially caused by increased numbers of pupils and students.

Education budget cuts

CDA resolved the deficit issue in its electoral platform by including a €200 million cut to the budget earmarked for universities and universities of applied sciences, according to calculations carried out by the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB). ChristenUnie’s idea is to cut back on the expenses associated with the public transport chip card for students, in that students would only be able to use the card for the nominal duration of their degree course. In addition, the party feels the number of students taking art degrees should be limited – possibly even halved.

According to De Telegraaf, it remains to be seen whether the Christian parties wish to make a big deal of the issue. The newspaper reported today that CDA’s proposal, in which only Bachelor students will be eligible for a grant, is the one currently being discussed.

Dutch student associations have argued for a re-introduction of student grants all along. “It is obvious to us that many young people are afraid to borrow money, and that money is the decisive factor in their decision as to whether or not to get a degree. We can’t let this happen,” said Rhea van der Dong, the Chair of the Dutch National Students’ Association (ISO). “We call on the parties involved in the government formation negotiations to re-introduce student grants, so that everyone gets a chance to attend university.”

The abolition of student grants was supposed to result in a €700 million annual gain for the tertiary education sector in the long term.