News - March 15, 2011

Students hard hit by cabinet measures

The cabinet will intensify its cost-cutting measures on students by restricting their right to the student public transport pass, from the looks of plans submitted yesterday to the Lower House of the Dutch Parliament.

While the plans of state secretary Zijlstra had been broadly made known, it now appears that the bite is as bad as the bark. If not worse. The major issues are:

  • Students with questionable or untraceable parents will lose their supplementary study grant.

  • Master's students will lose their basic study grant but will retain their supplementary grant.

  • In the first study year delay, they may retain the use of their student public transport pass, but will have to give up this right after that. This regulation will be implemented from 1 September 2012.

  • Students doing a Master's programme will still enjoy the low tuition fee tariff in their second study year delay. They may borrow their study grant and tuition fee up to their third study year delay, but not afterwards. They will have to make sure that they get their diploma within ten years, failing which they will have to pay back their performance grant.

  • The payback period will be extended from fifteen to twenty years. As such, it will take longer for poorer ex-students to be rid of their study debts. However, their monthly repayment burden will be lightened, although the repayment period will become longer and interest would increase as a result. These students may opt to pay back the loan faster.

  • The limit for extra earnings will stay the same in these plans. Students whose income from sideline jobs is too high will therefore also lose their right to student loans in the future.

  • The cabinet will also take fiscal measures to prevent students or their parents from deducting the extra costs from tax payments.

'Studying becomes very expensive'
Unions have voiced strong criticisms about the form the plans are taking. The cabinet is acting in a slipshod way, they say. 'There will soon be students who are affected by these measures all at once', says Guy Hendricks of the Dutch Intercity Student Organization (ISO). 'They will be hit very hard financially: by the regulation against extra study years, the social feudalism system and the loss of the public transport pass. Studying will become very expensive.'
Moreover, they do not get anything back in return.
'People who have to give up all these now will not be able to benefit from the investments resulting from such cost-cutting which the cabinet will plough back into education several years later.'
'Everything is done in such a slipshod way', reiterates Sander Breur of the Dutch Student Union (LSVb). 'The cabinet is not even consistent in its own argument. In the regulation against extra study years, the Bachelor's and the Master's programmes are viewed separately: you are allowed an extra year in each programme. But in the case of the public transport pass, everything is simply heaped together and only one extra year is allowed in total.'
Breur also finds it unfair that students will not be given a supplementary grant anymore if they are not on good terms with their parents. 'It appears that they have to be accountable for the way their parents act. That's just not right.' 
'Studying gets more priority'
'The cabinet feels that these measures are responsible', say the plans. 'Studying is a good investment in oneself and the accessibility of education is a guarantee of a feudal society.'
Partly because of social feudalism, the cabinet predicts that students will give extra thought to weighing the pros and cons of  extra-curricular activities and sideline jobs against any eventual study delay which may result. 'Studying will be given the highest priority again.'