For the tenth time, the CPB today presented its analysis of the political platforms for the upcoming elections. What do the parties say about government spending and where do they want to make cuts? Education is a big issue and some parties have surprises in store.
The VVD means to adjust set tuition fees. In order to make programmes in education, health and technology more attractive, students would be offered half-price tuition: they would pay roughly half of what, for example, history or sociology students pay in tuition fees.
Currently, there is a 50 percent discount on tuition solely for all first-year students (and for second-year students in teacher training programmes). But some other parties want to dispense with the 50 percent discount and replace it with a new student grant.
Public transport pass
The Christian governing parties, CDA and ChristenUnie, are proposing reductions to the student public transport pass. These two parties want to limit students’ travel benefit to the “nominal programme period” — the one additional year would be dropped. Moreover, ChristenUnie wants to scrap the transit reimbursement for Dutch students who study abroad for a period of time and therefore can’t use their free transit eligibility.
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Also noteworthy are the standpoints on direct (lump sum) funding of universities and universities of applied sciences. Most parties want to supplement existing funding, for example with an extra 100 million (ChristenUnie, GroenLinks), 200 million (PvdA) or even 1 billion euros (D66).
But the VVD actually wants to cut this lump sum by 200 million euros, with the goal of promoting closer coordination between the institutions and to reduce the number of programmes offered. If universities and universities of applied sciences get less money, according to conservative-liberal reasoning, they will work more efficiently.
Many parties (but again not the VVD) want to revive some form of student grant. One party is more generous than another here. And incidentally, some parties want to provide these grants through a new system of tax benefits. For example, ChristenUnie proposes a “cashable basic discount” for everyone on a low income, hence also for students. D66 has a similar idea and calls it the “cashable tax credit”.
GroenLinks doesn’t refer to a student grant, but the party wants to offer 10,000 euros of “start-up capital” to everyone when they turn 18. Up to age 23 you would only be able to use that money for educational purposes.
Additionally, some parties want to compensate students for missing out on the basic student grant, but there are differences in the amount they earmark for this. The most generous spenders are GroenLinks (3.1 billion), SP (1.7 billion), PvdA (1.6 billion) and ChristenUnie (1.5 billion).
There are limitations to the economic analysis of party election manifestos, as CPB Director Pieter Hasekamp acknowledged himself in his presentation. Budgetary and economic effects of measures are “only one aspect” of the policy choices the parties will be making. “This analysis is not in itself a voter’s guide.”
We often hear that comment when the topic is government spending on teaching and research. All the parties say these things are very important, but the impact can hardly be grasped in a bare economic analysis.