“Students are borrowing more, working more and spending less money on increasingly expensive groceries”, says Marijn Prins, president of the Rotterdam student union STUUR. The rising energy costs are getting more and more students into trouble, notes STUUR after about 100 reports of energy poverty.

Stijgende energiekosten gasprijzen 1 – Migle Alonderyte

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Measures by the national government

A maximum price for gas and electricity will be introduced on 1 January. It is not yet clear how this scheme will work out for students or student accommodation. However, in the 2023/2024 academic year, students living away from home will receive 165 euros per month on top of their basic student grant.

The government is also releasing 35 million euros for students who can no longer afford their energy bills. A scheme with a ‘bitter aftertaste’, feels the Dutch Student Union (LSVb). Only students who are living away from home and have concluded an energy contract themselves can make use of this scheme. According to the LSVb, this represents only 5% of all students living away from home. The LSVb considers it incomprehensible that the government does not want a national regulation.

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Mina Morkoç, councillor with GroenLinks, shares the view of the LSVb. Together with 57 other young councillors from major student cities, she sent a letter to the government. “The energy supplement scheme is intended to help people with little money, people at risk of severe poverty. And students are people too. So no, the problems have not yet been resolved. I find it bizarre that this help is not offered to students. If someone needs help, you must give it to them.”

There are municipalities in which students can apply for an energy supplement, but additional requirements are often imposed. “The government says that ‘a reasonable additional condition’ can be specified,” explains Morkoç. Municipalities are free to decide which conditions apply. “For example: as a student, you must be at least 21 years old and borrow the maximum amount before you can receive help with energy costs. In my opinion, maximum borrowing is not a ‘reasonable’ condition. What they are saying is: ‘First work your way completely into debt.’ You would never normally say something like that. Imposing rules on this help is not the way forward.” According to Morkoç, Rotterdam should follow the example of the municipalities of Zwolle, The Hague, Nijmegen and Tilburg and make the supplement of a total of 1,300 euros available to students.

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At the beginning of August, a student won a lawsuit against the municipality of Nijmegen. The court ruled that students as a group may not be excluded from the one-off energy supplement. Reason enough for the Rotterdam departments of GroenLinks, CDA, PvdA, Volt and PvdD to submit written questions to the city council. What does the verdict in Nijmegen mean for Rotterdam students? The municipal executive replied that it would first wait for the results of the discussion between the Association of Netherlands Municipalities and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. Morkoç says that she is ‘very disappointed’ with this response. “I certainly won’t be giving up”, she says. “Whatever it takes, I’m going to examine all the options.”

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