Scrapping grants has not hurt student numbers, minister says

New students in Delft. Photo: Delta
New students in Delft. Photo: Delta

Scrapping student grants in 2015 has not had an impact on the number of Dutch teenagers signing up for college and university, according to education ministry research.

The number of new students has remained virtually unchanged, education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven told MPs on Friday. This, the minister said, was a ‘positive sign’ that equal access to education is being maintained, broadcaster NOS reported.

Earlier this month, the Dutch Labour party did a u-turn and is now calling for the return of student grants, which were abolished under a Labour minister.

Since 2015, students have had to borrow to fund their degree courses, and run up an average debt of around €21,000 by the time they graduate. ‘We can now see that the debt is proving a problem for a large group,’ PvdA leader Lodewijk Asscher said.

The change of position by the Labour party means there is now majority support for the return of grants in parliament. Two of the four coalition parties – the CDA and ChristenUnie – also back a return to grants.

Grants did not cover all student bills but did reduce the amount students had to borrow.

The end of student grants was finally pushed through parliament in 2015 with the support of Liberal democratic party D66 and the left-wing greens of GroenLinks. In May, Groenlinks also changed its position and called for the return of the grant system.

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