Introduction of basic grant for all students in higher education

The national government of the Netherlands wants to reintroduce the basic student grant for higher education for all students in the 2023-24 academic year, after it was scrapped in 2015.

The minister of Education, Culture and Science, Robbert Dijkgraaf, will discuss this proposal with the House of Representatives in order to make this happen. The main idea is to introduce a “performance grant” with a distinction between students living away from home and those living with their parents. In the bill, the cabinet proposes a grant amount of €255 per month for students living on their own and €91 per month for scholars living at home. If they obtain a diploma within 10 years, the basic grant will be converted into a gift. On top of the basic grant, students will be able to borrow money at a low interest rate. Introduction of the basic grant is a top priority for the Education Executive Agency (DUO). Despite its great efforts, changing the systemn will not be possible before 2025.

Inequality in education
In order to reduce the inequality of opportunities in education, the government wants to ensure that more vocational (mbo) and higher education (hbo and wo) students will make use of the grant. In addition, the proposal is to abolish the additional income limit in mbo. The government wants to enable students to A side job or owning a business is a good way to gain more work experience, to contribute to general development and can reduce the debt. Finally, in the government’s preferred option, the repayment conditions in mbo will be relaxed.

The cabinet acknowledges that the reintroduction of the basic grant is harsh for the students who were in education between 2015 and 2022, as they received a loan only, not a grant. Although a financial contribution in the event of a policy change is unusual, the cabinet wants to make a gesture towards these students and has set aside €1 billion to partially reimburse them. However, there are still some dilemmas to be discussed based, for example: will the reimbursement apply to all students or only those who have received a student grant?

Reimbursement for students
The cabinet is proposing a reimbursement for all students who fell under the student loan system and have obtained their diploma, even if they were entitled to a student loan at the time, but did not make use of it. For a (nominal) study period of 4 years, students will receive over €1,400. Students who start their course in the academic year 2022-23 will still have to deal with the “old” loan system for one year, receiving a reimbursement of €359.

Additionally, as an extra amount of money on top of the allowance, the cabinet proposes to make existing study vouchers freely disposable. Students who were in education from 2015 to 2019 received these vouchers after obtaining their diploma, because they were not yet able to benefit from the investments in improving the quality of higher education that were made possible by scrapping the grant. For these students, approximately 374,000 people, an amount of €1,770 will be deducted from their student debt. If they have no student loan or have already paid it off, this amount will be paid out in cash. To date, the vouchers can only be used for further schooling, but the government is relaxing the rules.

As an example, anyone who has completed their studies in four years and studied from the 2015-16 to 2019-2020 academic year will receive €3,206: a total of €1,436 in compensation and approximately €1,770 from the student loan voucher. However, NRC newspaper reports that many students consider this a measly amount: The average student has a debt of €15,000, but many owe €60,000 or more. The reimbursement will not make a significant impact for them. When buying a house, the student debt is taken into account, and in the current housing market a €60,000 debt seriously reduces one’s chances of buying a house.

Therefore, the cabinet is speaking with young people regarding the concerns of their generation, such as being able to find a home or pressure to perform. Minister Dijkgraaf is currently holding discussions with students throughout the country under the “Speak out!” initiative. In the first week of April, he will discuss his proposal and the related dilemmas with the House of Representatives. Shortly afterwards, the internet consultation will start and everyone will be able to respond to the proposal. The bill will then be submitted to the House of Representatives.

Written byRaphael Perachi Vieira