On Friday, the Minister for Education, Culture and Science submitted to the Lower House a proposal regarding the newly to be reintroduced student grant and the compensation to be granted to students who were forced to take out loans during the years in which the student loan system was in force. In his letter, Robbert Dijkgraaf acknowledged that the fear many students had of incurring student loan debt negatively affected student welfare, as well as the choices made by students.
In his letter he proposed that, effective September 2023, students be awarded grants in the amount of €91 per month for students who live with their parents, and €255 per month for students who do not live with their parents. Furthermore, the Cabinet intends to grant those students who have not received a grant in recent years €359 per academic year, up to a total amount of €1,436 for four years of study. In addition, these students will be allowed to give up their study vouchers (which are designed to help them update their skills) in exchange for money. The vouchers represent a value of €1,770, meaning students may receive up to €3,206 in compensation.
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“That amount isn’t high enough,” said Paulo Bos, the chair of the Rotterdam-based action group Studentenprotest. “It’s harsh that the amount of the student grants given to students who don’t live with their parents, which was €286 [per month] back in the day, was higher than the €255 that has now been proposed. It’s not fair, because rent, tuition fees and the price of groceries have all gone up a lot in the seven years between the abolition of student grants and the present time. So it would be very reasonable if the amount of the grant were to be raised to an amount that actually takes into account greater expenses and rising inflation rates.”
Bos is critical of the amount students are to be given in compensation, which has been the action group’s main focus area. “That amount, 3,206 euros, is nowhere near high enough to cover the amount students have missed out on in recent years. In the policy recommendation we submitted a while ago, we asked for students to receive compensation in the amount of 15,000 euros. We calculated that amount on the basis of the amount students who did not live with their parents received in 2015. But even if the amount students are to receive in compensation were to be calculated on the basis of the 255 euros monthly that has now been proposed, you’d still end up with ten thousand euros. So there’s a large gap there that needs filling.”
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Minister acknowledges students have been unlucky
The Minister for Education stated in his letter that students have been having a rough time of it. For instance, he wrote that the current generation of students is a generation ‘in which various concerns come together’. These students have been disproportionately negatively affected by the pandemic, pressure to perform and difficulty renting or buying a home. He also stated that young people ‘may fall behind even more’ due to ‘significant student loan debt’.
Bos said that, in phrasing his letter in this way, the Minister had acknowledged that the current generation of students has been ‘an unfortunate generation’, and therefore deserves more generous compensation. However, he believes that if the Cabinet genuinely takes students seriously, it must do more. Since the action group wishes to demonstrate clearly which aspects of the proposal leave some room for improvement, it is drawing up a new policy plan. In addition to more generous compensation, the plan will focus on improved legislation that will make it harder for banks to refuse to give students who wish to buy a house a generous mortgage if they have outstanding student loan debt.