More European students could qualify for Dutch student loans
Dutch Education Executive Agency (DUO) will allow more customization for European students applying for student loans and will therefore be less likely to reject them automatically, a DUO spokesperson said to NOS. EU students are increasingly winning lawsuits against DUO because of the agency's too strict requirements for what it considers a part-time job, according to the broadcaster.
EU students who have a part-time job in the Netherlands can apply for student financing here because they are then regarded as employees. The EU considers it important that employees in the same Member State have equal rights. European law does not state the number of hours that constitutes a part-time job, but DUO set it at 56 hours a month on its website.
"You see that many students now think in advance: I do not qualify for that. So I am not even going to apply," lawyer Jillian van Damme, who conducted multiple successful lawsuits against DUO on this point, said to NOS. "The students who do and are then rejected for not meeting the 56-hours standard often leave it at that. And for the students who still go on to challenge that, it often takes six months to a year before they get their due."
In the meantime, students face financial difficulties, concentration problems and other mental health issues because of stress about money and the legal proceedings, and sometimes have to return home because they can't afford to stay in the Netherlands.
According to Van Damme, all that is completely unnecessary because the 56-hours standard is not included in European law. "In rulings, we soon see that you're fine from 40 hours a month." Lawyer Patrick Folsche, who also won proceedings against DUO, would even chance it from 32 hours per month, he said to the broadcaster.
DUO told NOS that it will look more closely at whether someone who works less than 56 hours is still entitled to student financing. And it will be more transparent on its website about the fact that students may qualify for financing even if they work less than 56 hours per month.
According to DUO, about 6,000 EU students received student funding in the Netherlands last year. That's about 7 percent of the total number of European students studying here. The agency could not estimate what a more lenient approach to granting loans would mean for these numbers.
PvdA parliamentarian Habtamu de Hoop called it good that DUO will make an exception to its 56-hours standard more often. "That is positive for the mental well-being of international students," De Hoop said, but added that this should not come at the expense of Dutch students. "I have therefore asked whether the Minister has mapped out the costs and consequences of a possible influx."