So how is that going to affect student finance? If the polls are to be believed, the VVD will continue to be by far the biggest party in the Lower House, and they appear to be the only party that still supports the current student loan system. But who knows? The liberal party is yet to release its draft election manifesto. The same is true for the CDA, even though this ruling party has always strongly objected to student loans.
The smaller ruling parties, D66 and ChristenUnie, have already indicated that they wish to reintroduce student grants, as have the opposition parties GroenLinks, PvdA and SP. But that is where the similarities end.
No amount specified
For instance, take the exact amount of the grant to be awarded to students. D66 and GroenLinks have proposed a monthly amount of up to €400, while the ChristenUnie has argued in favour of €500 for students living independently and €300 for students living with their parents. PvdA and SP have not yet specified an amount.
And how much are students’ parents allowed to earn annually without their children ceasing to be eligible for a grant? As far as D66 is concerned, all students whose parents earn less than €70,000 annually are entitled to a grant. GroenLinks wishes to make students from families whose household income is less than €100,000 eligible for a grant.
The ChristenUnie, one of the current ruling parties, feels that grants for students who live independently should not be tied to their parents’ income in any way, since students who do not live with their parents ‘run independent households’, as MP and education spokesperson Eppo Bruins wrote in a blog post. The party does believe that grants for students who live with their parents should be means-tested, but does not specify an amount. The party also feels that students should be allowed to earn up to €20,000, after which the amount of their grant will be incrementally reduced.
The SP has indicated that it wants ‘all students’ to receive a student grant. The socialist party is the only party to mention a supplementary grant to be awarded to ‘young adults from lower-income families’.
The current student finance system includes a government-funded public transport plan for students. Will students continue to be able to travel for free once they receive a new student grant? It seems likely, but D66 is the only party to make explicit mention of it.
The current situation for the Dutch student finance system:
Who will foot the bill?
In other words, not many details on the parties’ plans are available just yet, but if the aforementioned parties get what they want, several hundreds of millions’ worth of student grants will be awarded at some point. How are these grants going to be funded? That, too, remains somewhat unclear at present.
ChristenUnie recently announced in a press release that its plan is part of a ‘comprehensive proposal for the overhaul of the tax system, which will be published later this month’. And who does GroenLinks believe should foot the bill? “The super-rich, people of independent means and major corporations,” says the party, which wishes to impose higher tax rates on these groups.
There are other funding options, too, such as raising the interest rate on student loans or charging higher tuition fees. Or alternatively, the higher education sector may lose some of its funding.
Lastly, the majority of MPs agree that students who are currently funding their studies by means of a student loan must be granted some form of compensation. So at some point, additional funding will have to be allocated for that purpose, as well.