The opposition was once again unsuccessful in attempts to sweep away plans for an increase in the student loan interest rate. The CDA, too, will uphold – in spite of objections to the student loan system – the agreements in the coalition agreement.
The SP made a last-ditch attempt yesterday to change the minds of the governing parties and Minister Van Engelshoven. According to MP Frank Futselaar, Minister Van Engelshoven’s grounds and arguments for the increase don’t hold water. He referred to the 226 million that the interest rate increase would generate as “a house of cards”: minor deviations in the assumptions used to arrive at that amount could have major implications.
He is also concerned that the measure will further contribute to the drop in the number of students transferring from senior secondary vocational education to higher professional education. Young people will play it safe. “Debts stifle ambition.”
GroenLinks and PvdA, parties who made the introduction of the student loan system possible in 2015, are also against the interest rate hike. They didn’t sign on for an even higher student loan debt when agreeing to the new system back in 2015.
But the hike seems inevitable. VVD and D66 fully support it, as does the CDA, even though it goes against the express wishes of its own members. MP Harry van der Molen again pointed out that the CDA has always been against the student loan system, but a coalition means you have to be willing to give and take. He believes that in the current situation, a higher interest rate is justifiable. According to the MP, students now borrow too much money. The legislative amendment will make this a less attractive option.
Minister Van Engelshoven stood by her opinion that the measure will contribute to more sound government finances and that this is ultimately also beneficial for education. She also hammered away at the point that it will be working persons, not students, who will be paying the higher interest rate: “People who can earn a good income thanks to a qualitatively good degree programme will be able to repay in proportion to that income.” She feels that with this reasoning, the student loan system retains its socially conscious character.
GroenLinks also submitted a motion calling on the government to investigate the effects on student loan debt if the repayment term was brought back to 25 years. D66 MP Paul van Meenen called it the surprise of the day. “If your party is against the increase in monthly payments – 12 euros for working persons with an above-average income – then it’s quite startling that your party would make a proposal that would cause the monthly payments to explode simply by reducing the repayment term by ten years or more.”
But that wasn’t GroenLinks’s intention. The party chiefly wanted to know if people who are struggling with repayment could be released from their student loan debt at an earlier stage.
Voting on the legislative proposal is scheduled for next week.