Student - August 30, 2012

Proposition: Student loans should be regulated. Students borrow money far too readily.

Marlies Bos (the left-wing fluffy type) and Jillis Herweijer (the right-wing Hooray Henry type) rarely see eye to eye on matters of politics, the environment or student life.

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Jillis: People (politicians and the Nibud in particular) have reacted in a rather panicky way to the realization that half of all students are in debt. I wonder why. Taking out a loan is often a conscious choice students make. In view of their education, these people should have brains and can be assumed to have given their decision careful thought. Whether you borrow to make ends meet or in order not to have to think twice about every purchase, it's up to you (you can also get a part-time job) and the interest is low. You can also see it as an investment in your studies which - as long as you haven't picked a silly course - should lead to a good salary later. In short, I am not too worried about this. And to launch an educative campaign on it strikes me as a waste of money and effort.
Marlies responds: Conscious choice? Research has shown that a lot of students don't seem to be very savvy at all when it comes to money matters and loans. And I know enough ex-students who in retrospect regret having borrowed so much. Plus, nowadays a job is by no means always guaranteed, so whether you will be getting a good salary later is not certain.
Marlies: Nowadays it is compulsory for adverts for hire-purchase deals to carry a warning, and the bank will only give you a loan if they are sure they will get their money back. And yet at DUO it takes no more than a couple of mouse clicks to get hundreds of euros put onto your account. You don't even have to have seen the rules for paying back the loan. Of course, borrowing is unavoidable if you don't have time for a job and your parents' contribution is small, and it should certainly continue to be possible. However, many students also use the money for skiing holidays, smartphones and other things which are certainly not essentials. Of course students should be smart enough to think through the consequences. But for lack of education on the matter and because a loan is so easy to arrange, it seems this is definitely not always the case.
Jillis responds: I am not one for thinking for other people. Let students decide for themselves whether they want to borrow money for a long holiday or not. At that age you are perfectly capable of weighing up the consequences. Have a bit of trust and let students have some freedom.

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