Saturday 06 June 2020

Students are borrowing more, but abolition of grants has not hit numbers

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The abolition of grants in 2015 has not led to fewer students going to college and university but they are borrowing substantially more money, according to new research by the government’s economic think-tank CPB.

Researchers followed pupils who were in their third and fourth years at high school in 2012 to look at what choices they made about higher education.

They found no difference in the number of pupils opting for university or hbo college, saying 85% opted for further education, in line with previous years.

However they did borrow more money – between €500 and €600 a month – and there was no increase in the percentage of students who had a job. Around 45% of university and 60% of college students work while studying for their degrees.

Researcher Jonneke Bolhaar said this may be because students are under increased pressure to complete their degrees quickly. However, the results show that the abolition of grants for all but the very poorest students have not led to some groups being disadvantaged, she said.

There has been mounting political pressure on the government to bring back grants and the education minister is currently evaluating the system. Two of the four parties which backed their abolition – GroenLinks and the PvdA – are now calling for change. Two of the four coalition parties – the CDA and ChristenUnie – also support a return to grants.

Today’s students run up an average debt of around €21,000 by the time they graduate and the loans are now being looked at by banks when assessing mortgage requests, something which ministers said in 2015 would not be the case.

Education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven said last year she is not opposed to reforms if it transpires that some students are being disadvantaged.

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