News - March 12, 2020

Column: #NietMijnSchuld

Vincent Oostvogels

There is a campaign underway with the hashtag #NietMijnSchuld (NotMyDebt / NotMyFault – ‘schuld’ means both, ed.) The campaigners announced a while back that they would be ‘making a noise’ in March. I haven’t noticed much yet. Drowned out by all the Corona news, perhaps.

#NietMijnSchuld refers of course to the student debt built up by some Dutch students as a result of the loan system. That system was introduced in 2015, but no longer has the support of a parliamentary majority. For some time now, the campaigners have been pushing for the return of basic grant that all students used to receive. They also demand compensation for the generation of ‘unlucky’ students who haven’t had a basic grant.

I’m one of those unlucky students. Actually I should get down on my knees and thank those campaigners. If they manage to pressure the government into giving compensation, it would be a nice windfall. But the truth is, I’m not really very comfortable with the whole #NietMijnSchuld campaign.

Actually I should get down on my knees and thank those campaigners

The thing is, the loan system is pretty good. It includes free public transport, a supplementary grant for people whose parents are less well-off, and the option of borrowing money on very friendly terms to invest in your future. Of course, a basic grant on top of that would be great – so would free coffee – but that doesn’t make it a human right.

I see it as a privilege to enjoy higher education in the Netherlands. We have good universities of all kinds. The tuition fees are a fraction of the real costs of the education, and often much lower than the fees international students pay to study here. So is it really so strange that we are asked to invest in our education ourselves?