Student - October 30, 2015

There is life after grants

They were both worried about the effects of the abolition of Dutch government student funding and decided to join forces. Relations manager Hermien Miltenburg and student Carina Nieuwenweg will be hosting an evening on the theme of student funding on 9 November. ‘Objective information is important because there are a lot of scary ideas doing the rounds.’

Photo: Guy Ackermans

Hermien Miltenburg, relations manager for Wageningen University, has been travelling around the country for years providing information about higher education choices. Since the scrapping of the basic grant hitherto provided for students by the Dutch government, she notices a big change among parents. ‘Now they question whether their child ought to go to university, or they mainly look at professions in which a job is guaranteed. But financial reasons are not the right motivation for the choice of degree subject.'

Students themselves have been very preoccupied with money matters recently, too, says Hermien. ‘Health care insurer Achmea recently conducted a survey to find out what the Dutch worried most about. Students turned out to worry most about money, even more than, say, mothers on benefit. Isn’t that awful?’

Education should be about the subject matter, not about money worries, in Hermien’s opinion. And she found an ally in student of Molecular Life Sciences Carina Nieuwenweg, who she meets regularly through various Wageningen activities. Carina: ‘We talked about how important it is for students, parents and high school students to get objective information about the new loan system and money, because there are scares going around and people are unnecessarily anxious. After all, you are not the only one or the first person to have to manage on a tight budget, nor are you the only one who has to consider whether a course of studies is worth taking out a loan for, and whether you should be worried about a student debt. I thought it would be nice to join forces with a university staff member and tackle this, so I asked Hermien if we could organize something together.

Hermien took the first step towards organizing the evening at ex-rector magnificus Martin Kropff’s farewell party. ‘I saw Job Cohen there and I thought: I need to talk to him. I followed him around all evening until he sat down in a quiet corner. After a glass of wine I had the courage to approach him.’ Cohen, who chairs Wageningen UR’s supervisory board, was willing to speak at the information evening. Hermien: ‘He will emphasize that it always pays off to study, because it is an investment in yourself, which cannot be compared with something like taking out a mortgage. You should do a degree in a subject you are passionate about because that is the best guarantee of a job. You don’t take long to get good at it either. The expectation is that people who are young now will work until they are 72. You cannot keep that up if you are not passionate about your work. And although a lot of people may be needed in ICT at the moment, that won’t necessarily still be the case in ten years’ time.’

Carina and Hermien managed to get funding from Nibud, the institute for budgeting education. They are making a film in which students talk about the money issues they face and Nibud comments on them. Carina also came up with the idea of sharing the tips for economizing which she drew up together with a student panel. One of these tips is to eat together, which leads to savings of 40 percent, as well as being sociable and giving you a chance to exchange recipes. The tips are being collected in a digital flyer so everyone can benefit from them.

The information evening Wijzer met Geld (Wiser with money) will be held on 9 November from 19.30 to 21.30 in Orion. You can register at