Three motions against student loans were tabled yesterday. Two of these motions were adopted during the General Political Considerations session in which the new National Budget was discussed. It was the first time such a large majority of MPs spoke out against the current student loan system.

SP and Volt each tabled one motion, while ChristenUnie and CDA tabled one together. The motion put forward by the SP was rejected, but the two other motions were adopted by a vast majority of MPs. Of the major parties, only the liberal party, VVD, voted against them.

PM advised against adopting the motion

Outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte had advised against voting in favour of the motion tabled by the SP but had not expressed an opinion on the two other motions. The SP called in its motion for ‘the government’ to ‘do something’, while the two other motions only expressed an opinion that something must be done. There is a subtle difference between those two, but that does not mean that the government won’t have its work cut out for it.

There was another crucial difference between the various motions that were tabled yesterday: Volt, ChristenUnie and CDA do not mention financial compensation for those students who, rather than receiving a student grant, were told to take out a loan. Such compensation was included in the motion put forward by the SP, which was rejected.

National student association ISO considers the results of the votes a victory worth celebrating. ISO said this would constitute the ‘death blow’ for student loans and ‘grounds for students all over the Netherlands to throw a big party’.

However, before the motions were put to the vote, outgoing PM Mark Rutte stated that it would take a while to introduce new student grants, as the Education Executive Agency (DUO) won’t be able to change its system overnight and has rather a lot on its plate as it is.

Nevertheless, it seems inevitable that the incoming Cabinet will have to discuss the reintroduction of student grants. What exactly the new grants will be like, and when they will be introduced, remains to be seen.

Funding

For instance, it is unclear at present how much funding the incoming Cabinet will be able to allocate to the reintroduction of student grants, or where the money is supposed to come from. Will the sums necessary for the payment of student grants be subtracted from the budget allocations included in the National Education Budget?

It seems unlikely that student grants will be reintroduced next academic year, as student organisations and politically engaged youngsters demanded earlier this week. It seems fairly likely that a commission will be established to look into the matter at its leisure, after which the Ministry of Education may well take its time to draw up a legislative bill.

In other words, despite the fact that these motions were adopted yesterday, it may take a few years for the Lower and Upper Houses to approve a reform of the student finance system.

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