Yesterday, for the second night in a row, the Senate examined the bill to raise interest on study debts from 2020 onwards. The government wants to link the interest rate to the 10-year interest rate on government loans. Former students with an average loan (21 thousand euros) and an above average income will then pay around 12 euros more interest per month. After 35 years of repayments, this rises to more than 5,000 euros. The plan should eventually bring the Treasury around 226 million euros a year.
The Senate mainly wanted to know whether the accessibility of higher education is not endangered by the interest rate rise and demanded a better motivation from the minister. Her answer, however, gave no new insights. “Adjusting the interest rate benchmark will have little or no effect on accessibility,” was the minister’s message.
She repeated that students only have to pay when they have finished their studies and have found a job with sufficient income. The social loan conditions also remain in force and students can continue to use all existing components of the student grant, such as the public transport card and the supplementary grant.
Many opposition parties asked Van Engelshoven why the income from the interest rate increase is not invested directly in education, but flows back to the state treasury. The minister wanted to be brief about this: “This measure generates money for the sustainability of public finances. That is why the bill was submitted by the government, no more and no less than that. I can’t make it more beautiful. ”
On Monday it became clear that former VVD senator Duthler and D66 senator Rinnooy Kan are critical about the interest rate rise. Changing the law stands or falls with their support. Minister Van Engelshoven does not seem to have convinced them with her arguments. “We had serious concerns, I cannot say that they have completely disappeared,” said Rinnooy Kan. The ‘uncertainties and doubts’ of Duthler have not been eliminated.
The minister therefore concluded that her bill ‘cannot count on much support’. She will consult with the Cabinet and let know what came out before the vote on 4 June.