Take the year 2018. Did the Netherlands have a total student debt of 11.2 billion euros, as DUO claimed last year? Or was it actually 17.5 billion, according to the latest figures published by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) this week?

It depends how you calculate it. Unlike in 2017, for example, DUO only looked at the debts of former students who still needed to repay their loan. Nor did DUO take into account the two groups of recent graduates. On the other hand, the CBS does include the loans of current students, but then without the sums that might be written off, such as the basic grant and the public transport card. The actual debt might then be even higher.

In debt

Nevertheless, based on those figures, the total student debt has clearly risen significantly since the abolition of the basic grant. In 2015, according to the CBS, (former) students owed the government 12.7 billion euros, a sum that had risen to 17.5 billion euros in 2018. An increase of nearly 5 billion euros. However, that is also related to the growth in the total number of students, some of whom are accumulating debt.

The CBS also looked at the average student debt per age group. The debt mountain of young (former) students rose most. Which is logical, because these include the first groups of students who have no longer received a basic grant since 2015. In the category up to the age of 20, the average student debt more than doubled, from 2,400 in 2015 to 5,300 in 2018. Among those in the 20 to 25 age bracket, this rose from 7600 euros to 10,600 euros.
With the introduction of the student loan system, it was assumed that the average student debt would rise to 21,000 euros, but that does not appear from these figures. Most students in these age categories are yet to accumulate debt, while a 25-year old graduate – with or without a basic grant – may already owe a substantial sum.

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