Elections for Dutch parliament are scheduled to take place next year, so all parties are working on their election programmes. It is no wonder the unions are working so hard to get the topic of student financing back on the agenda.

Debt free

They are asking for €3.8 billion per year to allow students to graduate without a burden of debt and even then studying will by no means be free: students (or their parents) will be required to pay 450 euros per month towards cost of living and study costs. The unions are also asking for a one-off subsidy of €3.5 billion to compensate students no longer entitled to a basic grant.

The reason? The upcoming economic downturn. According to the unions, we should show our young people solidarity. They are already struggling in the job market and buying a home is almost unaffordable. Significant investments in young people must be made.

This afternoon, the MPs (in the room or by means of video) stated that they felt sympathetic to the cause. All want to make adjustments to student financing one way or another. Some even want to go back to a basic student grant of some kind – but what that means exactly remains to be seen.

In love

But the parties agree that €3.8 million is a lot of money. Jan Paternotte (D66) warned against “people in love, drunk people and politicians during campaign season”. SP and GroenLinks agreed it was unlikely that the students’ dream would come true. They wanted to be honest about that.

“In our previous election programme, we budgeted one billion for the introduction of a new basic student grant system”, said Frank Futselaar. According to the MP, the amount would be approximately the same this time around.

Only Farid Azarkan from DENK believed more could be possible. He has no strong opinion on whether the basic student grant should be €800, as the unions are proposing, or more around €700, because, as he says, the coronavirus crisis has shown that the government has deep pockets, so there are definitely options.

Basic income

Lammert van Raan (Partij voor de Dieren) joined the conversation a little later. He wanted to discuss a basic income for everyone, in which case a basic student grant would become obsolete. “Money is far from an issue, in fact we might as well be drowning in it. Although an economic downturn is around the corner, we know how we can come out the other side.”

Election fever is already a little palpable. All parties shared their realistic and idealistic views. Every single one opposed the loan system, or wanted to make sensible adjustments. They want to give students more money, or more security, or better education, or all of the above.

Ultimately, the election programmes drawn up in the run-up to the elections on 17 March 2021 will demonstrate their willingness to take action.



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