Tuition fees halved in €9.2 billion education support package
This story was updated after details of the plan were released.
Higher education students including those in a higher vocational program will only pay half of their tuition fees for the coming academic year, the caretaker Dutch Cabinet announced on Wednesday. The initiative is part of an 9.2 billion euro education support package that includes increased funding for the university and hogeschool system to cope with an expected increase in students next academic year, and more money for primary and secondary schools to provide more support to their student body.
The government hopes that the bulk of the funding, 8.5 billion euros, will allow the country's education system to recover and develop stronger amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Education ministers Ingrid van Engelshoven and Arie Slob said the plan will also create a safety net for students and staff who are struggling.
The 50-percent tuition reduction is meant to give breathing room to students, with many out of work as a result of the public health and economic crisis. Students who are likely to lose their basic and supplementary grants will also qualify for a new benefit payment. Those higher education students who need more time to graduate will also get a maximum one-year extension for their public transportation pass.
"The subsidy for practical apprenticeships in MBO will be increased, making it more advantageous for companies to retain the professionals of the future, even in these difficult economic times, in the interest of students and companies," the government said in a statement.
"With financial support and more intensive guidance, we are reducing the pressure that students feel," Van Engelshoven said.
Research universities and applied sciences universities, or hogescholen, will also be able to access a 645 million euro fund to cope with the predicted "enormous influx of students" who opt to skip out on their gap year because of the pandemic. The fund is for the institutions to hire more people to handle the increased workflow.
Another 162 million euro earmark will also be allocated to allow the continued employment of 20 thousand academic researchers. This will give them more security as they continue their research and teaching duties, the government said.
There are about 6,600 primary schools in the Netherlands, and they will all be given an average of 180 thousand euros to spend in the next academic year. The 650 secondary schools will receive an average of 1.3 million euros per school. Investments will also be made in special education facilities. The exact amounts will scale up or down depending on the number of students.
The money is to be spent directly on helping students, including on their social and emotional development. Focused tutoring and partnerships with public libraries will be encouraged, with teachers providing input on how the money is spent.
In return, the government wants schools to provide tutoring over the summer, free of charge, to any student who needs it or wants it. A portion of the support package is also meant to be invested in specialist subject teaching, teaching assistants, and more education support staff.
“With this National Program, we are doing everything we can to offer the youngest generations in our country the same opportunities as the generations that went to school without a pandemic," said Slob, whose portfolio includes primary and secondary education. "That is why we are going to look very carefully at what each student needs to ease the pain of this pandemic as much as possible."
Two weeks ago, parliament asked the cabinet to give students at universities, higher vocational education, and vocational education whose studies were delayed a free year with no tuition fees. It seems the government decided to rather give more students lesser help.