Business administration student Paulo Bos (25) felt it couldn’t go on like this and started an Instagram page and an online petition with some friends in a student room. That petition was signed over 62,434 times within weeks by students from all over the country.
The action group is very concerned about the debt burden of current students and sees the compensation as a drop in the ocean, according to activist, law and business student Marleen Verheij (19). Verheij is adamant: “That 1 billion in compensation comes down to 1000 euros per student and apart from that, every former student gets a voucher of 2000 euros for a course that starts five years after you graduate.”
But that doesn’t do you much good according to Verheij. “These 1,000 euros do not represent much if you consider that students have lost 15,000 euros on the basic grant alone. That amount is calculated over four years of study, after the study financing was abolished in 2015. Furthermore, such a study voucher is of little use, because after five years you can probably do an additional course through your employer and then you pay institutional tuition fees.”
Verheij herself is the first in her family to go to college and the situation affects her personally. She explains: “My parents taught me that as long as you work as hard as possible and borrow as little as possible, things will work out. So, it turns out that’s not the case. If you go to university now and don’t get any help paying off your debts, you won’t be able to get a mortgage, for example. Even if you work hard and want to borrow little, you will be hit hard. That’s unfair and that’s why we’re worried.”
From a group of acquaintances, Studentenprotest has grown into something that is starting to look pretty much like a professional organisation. The group now consists of seven students who meet several times a week. Bos is now chairman, there is an external relations manager, for example, and Verheij has taken on the role of marketing manager.
Four of the activists are now busy writing a policy plan. Verheij explains, “We are looking at multiple ways in which we could be fairly compensated, as well as other things that support the importance of changing the current compensation with data such as the effect of financial pressure on student well-being, dropout rates, and improving workload in education.”
The policy plan is now being written and researched along with experts from various fields. The final plans will be announced in the run-up to the protest on 5 February. Studentenprotest hopes for political impact. The petition has now been included in the agenda of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. They are also looking at other ways they can reach The Hague via Political Youth Organisations, the civil service and of course the media.
The dissatisfaction of the action group Studentenprotest is also echoed in the Lower House. Former students should receive more money for the loss of the basic grant than the new cabinet has allocated, opposition parties said Wednesday in a debate on the government statement.
For example, SP party chair Lilian Marijnissen said, “There is a whole generation that has had to go into debt and then the Rutte IV cabinet comes up with a rather meagre tip.”
Prime Minister Mark Rutte responded to the commotion on Thursday. According to him, the money set aside in the coalition agreement is a “concession” for students without a basic grant and is not intended as compensation. A parliamentary majority agrees with Rutte.
Students to protest against meagre compensation for loan system
The new government has earmarked one billion euros to compensate students who missed out…
Action group Studentenprotest is not resigned to it. On 5 February, the Rotterdam students, together with action movement Nietmijnschuld and trade union FNV Young & United, will go to Amsterdam for a large compensation protest. The activists call on students to join them.