Student loan reform progresses

The Cabinet is going to pull out €200 to €300 million for a deal between GroenLinks and D66 with a loan system for students. The two opposition parties are demanding that amount to compensate poorer families for the loss of their study grant. The Cabinet hopes to finalize the deal this week. 

It used to be so that students automatically received a study grant, which they did not need to pay back, which they have had a right to for 30 years. Now, however, this grant has been turned into a loan, which students have to start paying back once they earn more than the minimum wage.

Fraction leaders from the VVD, PvdA, D66 and GroenLinks gathered at the ministry of Education on Monday to discuss the study loan. The negotiations have now reached the decisive stage. Lower level discussions have been ongoing since Devember between the Members of Parliament of the four parties, and PvdA-minister for Education Jet Bussemaker.

A point of difficulty for the negotiations was what those involved would call 'the accessibility'. According to the Volkskrant, many students are saying that they will not study if they have to start paying for it themselves. Especially young people with low-educated parents are de-motivated. GroenLinks does not agree with this. This party is necessary to support the coalition in the Senate, just as the D66.

In order to keep GroenLinks happy about the deal, the parties have been discussing how to make the loan system 'social' enough for the party. Of the €800 million which the loan system was supposed to yield according to the coalition agreement, €200- €300 is directly channeled back to students with poor and usually low-educated parents. Cutting the grant for students with unwilling or missing parents will also be reversed.

Part of the deal is also that students will receive more time to pay back the loan. They have 30-40 years to pay it back, meaning they are losing less money every month, and are only obliged to do so once they earn more than the minimum wage. It is now the case that students have to pay back already at benefits level.

The VVD wants to prevent all the money for education going to income support for students, and would rather see it going to paying for more teachers and more contract hours, the Volkskrant reports. This is why the coalition wanted free public transport travel scrapped. This came into opposition. It seems that the OV-card for students will stay, but that students will not be allowed to travel during peak hours as much.