Julie le Sage (23, Criminology) is currently avoiding reports about student loans, as she finds the subject too depressing. “It started with the disappointing compensation for the loan generation. I think it’s the accumulation, that’s where the cynicism comes from.” She has a student debt of 50,000 euros and was surprised by the higher interest rate: “If you take out a loan under the conditions that were set at the time, I don’t think it should change later.” Since 2015, however, the regulations of the loan system have specified that the interest rate can change and therefore will not necessarily remain fixed at zero per cent. “At the beginning of my studies, I was convinced that the interest rate would stay at zero per cent, which also says something about the way it is framed.”
Julie began to borrow in a carefully considered way at the start of her studies but is now doubting whether she made the right choice. “I worry retroactively. I recently sat down with my parents to discuss the question: should I maybe have continued living with them?” All the same, she would not have done things any differently. “I just studied how I wanted to study, and I think it will work out okay.”
The loan system was introduced in 2015. The interest that students pay on their loans is fixed each year, and until now it has always been zero per cent. The interest that people pay when redeeming the loan is determined every five years.
More part-time jobs
Luuk Stoppelenburg (19, Sociology) does not feel that he is studying in the way he would prefer. Although he is not borrowing, he would like to. “If I could borrow in an affordable and realistic way, it would take some pressure off my parents. I’m currently dependent on them but would like to stand on my own two feet.” Luuk can see students working more to earn money and is also doing so himself, even though he thinks it is affecting his academic performance. “I try to work two full days a week, but I do notice that I’m starting to suffer from sleep deprivation.” If the interest rate had remained at zero per cent, Luuk would have been keen to borrow so he could live in student accommodation. Currently, however, the level of uncertainty is too high for him. “They’re putting half a per cent interest on it now, and that might not even be the end of it. I need more certainty.”
“What next? Now that they’ve started increasing the interest rate, it could easily increase further.” Jay van Lieshout (21, Business Administration) is concerned about the precedent that the government is setting: it could get even higher. Jay is borrowing the maximum amount and expects to have a total student debt of 50,000 euros at the end of his studies. He calculates: “That would make it an extra 230 euros per year, I still think that’s okay. Of course, the interest rate could go up again before I start repaying the loan. And by the time I’m halfway through paying it off, the amount of interest could be significantly higher.”
Jay can also see the uncertainty that the interest rate is bringing. “It’s discouraging people from studying, people are already afraid of student debts anyway.” Jay does understand why the interest is there, even though he thinks the government could handle it differently. “I’d love it if they fixed the interest rate for ten years, for example. That would certainly create clarity and help people know where they stand.”