Their parents’ income doesn’t seem to make much of a difference, according to a study published by CPB on Tuesday together with DUO, entitled ‘The effect of the Student Advance Act on access to education and borrowing behaviour’.

According to CPB, fears that the cancellation of the base grant would make higher education less accessible have proven unfounded for these student groups. The Bureau has not examined whether this also applies to MBO (VET) graduates who move on to HBO (higher professional education).


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The intake of havo and vwo graduates in higher education hasn’t declined after the introduction of the Student Advance Act, in other words. Nor can we observe any far-reaching changes in the new students’ choice of degree programme. First-year students aren’t opting for less demanding or shorter programmes, nor are they homing in more often on programmes that offer better job prospects.

Borrowing more

Since the end of the base grant scheme, students have been taking on more debt with DUO (and borrowing higher amounts). From the first-year students with a havo diploma, 45 percent are taking on debt compared to 13 percent ‘in the old days’. The increase is even starker among vwo graduates: from 18 to 57 percent. The amounts borrowed average 500 and 600 euros per month respectively.

Following the cancellation of the base grant, ex-havo students lost an average of 80 euros in grant money, taking out 180 euros in supplementary loans (with some borrowing more and others borrowing nothing at all). VWO graduates lost an average of 125 in grant money, taking out an extra 280 euros in loans.

CPB can’t offer a hard explanation for this development. “Possibly, students are wary of borrowing per se, and find it easier to take on a bit more debt once they do cross this threshold.”

Another remarkable finding is that students don’t work part-time more often than they used to, and that on average they work the same number of hours as they used to under the old scheme. And while fewer students are registered as living away from home than there used to be, according to CPB, this could also be due to the fact that it is no longer relevant to the financial assistance system whether you live on your own or with your parents.


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Bad idea

Since CPB/DUO’s study didn’t include MBO students, the Dutch National Student Association (ISO) doesn’t want to accept the statement that accessibility hasn’t diminished since 2015 at face value. As it is, ISO is in favour of a financial assistance system for students that doesn’t require them to take on debt.

According to ISO board member Eline van Hove, it stands to reason that students are borrowing more than they used to. “The cost of living has simply gone up,” she says. In her view, it remains a bad idea to have young people weighed down by substantial debt at the start of their career. As it is, today’s graduates are less likely to be offered an open-ended contract or a mortgage than previous generations. “And we’re afraid that the coronavirus crisis is only making matters worse.”