On average, students are between 19 and 20 years old when they move out, says CBS researcher Tanja Traag. Young working people get a place of their own even later – between 24 and 26. In 2017, the average overall stood at 23.5 years; in 2012, young people moved out significantly sooner: at 22.8.
“The trend we can see is that young people move out, stand on their own two feet, marry and have children later than they used to. All the steps associated with ‘settling down’ have been pushed back,” according to Traag.
Previous studies already showed that students started staying at home significantly longer after the introduction of the loan system. These ‘live-in’ students used to receive a lower base grant than those living elsewhere. But after the cancellation of the base grant, students no longer have a financial incentive to leave the nest.
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According to Traag, the loan system remains one of the key contributors to students’ decision to stay with their parents. That and the limited supply of rooms for students. Since more and more international students are enrolling at Dutch institutions – and looking for a room, of course – it is becoming harder and harder in many student towns to find an affordable room.
Diederik Brink, Director of the Kences student housing knowledge centre, also points to the growing debt burden as one of the factors that motivates students to move out later. “Not everyone has enough capital to take on a debt of this kind. And not everyone is equally confident that after graduating they will earn enough to pay back their student loans.”
Interstedelijk Studenten Overleg (ISO) calls it a ‘worrying’ trend. According to the umbrella organisation for student councils, first-year students don’t stay home longer voluntarily – it’s because they’re afraid to enter into debt. ISO Chair Tom van den Brink: “Your time as a student is an incredibly important period in your personal development. Students who have to postpone this step towards greater independence miss out on a lot – simply because they already have to worry about their life after graduation.”
Kences Director Brink points out that living away from home increases students’ independence and expands their options when it comes to study programmes. “You need to be free to choose an institution or student town that suits you. For this, we need housing benefits and other instruments that can help keep a room within everyone’s means.” Brink consequently argues for affordable, social student housing.
Traag expects this trend to continue for some time yet. “Maybe this will set a new standard and change student life in the long term.” If many of the students need to go home to their parents’ after a lecture, social activities may have to be scheduled around this. Traag is sure of one thing: the fact that more and more students are staying with their parents will undoubtedly have some effect or other.