News - November 22, 2010

Study grant cheats to be severely punished

Students who cheat to get study grants will face heavy fines and even be prosecuted. A check in Amsterdam shows up the magnitude of this problem.

It's rather strange that those who commit fraud to get a study grant have so far gone scot free. Someone living with his mother who reports an aunt's address in Wageningen to the DUO gets 170 euros more under the basic student grant scheme. Hardly any inspections have hitherto taken place; someone who is accidentally found out only needs to pay back the extra amount of money. It is difficult to find any other financial regulation in the Netherlands which is so lenient towards offenders.
Reversal in burden of proof
But those days are over if a new regulation comes into force. Whoever caught committing fraud not only has to pay back the extra amount of money received, but also has to pay a fine equal to half that amount. A subsequent offence can bring about prosecution proceedings. Moreover, the burden of proof will be reversed: DUO would not need to prove that fraud has been committed; in doubtful cases, the student would have to prove that he or she lives at the registered address.
40 percent commit fraud
It is not clear how many students cheat to get student grants, but an inspection in Amsterdam has shown up more than a handful. Last summer, inspectors called on 2500 students who were supposed to be living away from their parent's homes in Amsterdam, apparently the biggest group in question. As much as 40 percent of the addresses were found to be fraudulent. In the meantime, inspections have also been planned in Rotterdam, The Hague and cities in the Twente region.