In 2015 four parties supported scrapping the basic student grant: the former coalition parties VVD and PVDA and opposition parties D66 and GroenLinks. Three out of these four have since changed their stance.

But the VVD has not, as their election manifesto shows. According to them, the social loan system and the supplementary grant will ensure that higher education remains “accessible for everyone”.

Fair share

If a degree programme leads to a higher income, then you pay back a “fair share” of the costs, according to the programme. “That is why student loan repayments are based on income and why interest rates will remain low.”

The profits from the social loan system will go towards improving education. “Students should be able to have clearer insight into how the money is spent”, says the party. “The money flow will be charted in an easy and transparent manner so students will be able to see where the money goes.”

The VVD also wants to lower tuition fees for programmes that “train people for jobs in sectors where there are shortages.” These include programmes in healthcare, education and technology. The party believes that technological programmes should be given more government funding anyway. The liberals are advocating for quality funding, by which they mean more money towards ‘excellent programmes and research’.

Right to learn

They are also interested in conducting an experiment with a ‘personal study credit’, also known as the right to learn, a favoured topic of Mark Rutte in his days as State Secretary of higher education. Students will be able to use this government funding for the programme of their choice, which could also include private educational institutes. This means that if a student decides to make a switch, they can bring their government funding with them.

The elections are scheduled to take place in March. Current polls show that VVD is the most popular party by far. Other parties are advocating for the reintroduction of the study grant but will likely have to compromise with a party that has zero interest in this idea.