The coronavirus pandemic has completely upended the Dutch educational system. To mitigate the effects of the containment measures, Education Ministers Van Engelshoven and Slob announced a large support package of 8.5 billion euros last February.
This will also go some way towards compensating students, as they will receive a 50 percent discount on their tuition fees next year. Students graduating this year will also be compensated. Most of them will receive a refund for three months’ tuition, or 535 euros.
But that just won’t cut it, say the students behind the initiative Tuition Fee Refunds NOW!. Their online petition demands full compensation for all tuition fees paid in the 2020-2021 academic year. This could also take the form of a tuition fee waiver for next year, or student debt reductions. As their slogan puts it: “Why half a refund for a full-blown crisis?”.
The 46,000 digital signatures collected by Tuition Fee Refunds NOW! are more than enough to put their cause on the agenda of the House of Representatives, which requires only 40,000 signatures.
In an interview with the Groningen student newspaper UKrant, the petitioners said they were optimistic about their chances. After all, they said, in February a majority of Parliament voted in favour of an extra, tuition-free year for delayed students.
Still, it remains to be seen whether these tens of thousands of signatures will sway the government. Full refunds would be very expensive, and The Hague sees the 50 percent discount currently being offered as a generous gesture.