Do students who missed out on the basic grant feel like a "lost generation"?

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In 2015, the Dutch government abolished the basic student grant, replacing it with a loan system. Now, the new cabinet plans to reinstate the grant, but the students who missed out on it are only going to get meagre compensation. In the run-up to the demonstration in Amsterdam on February 5, DUB asked them: do they feel like a "lost generation"?

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From 2015 onwards, getting a higher education degree in the Netherlands became several thousand euros more expensive for Dutch and European students, as well as non-Europeans with certain types of residency visas. Those who cannot afford the costs of studying can borrow money from the Education Implementation Service (DUO in the Dutch acronym).

But the loan system didn't work, so the new cabinet is taking a U-turn and bringing the basic grant back. But that's not happening before September 2023, at the earliest.

Many argue that the current generation of students got burned. After all, the government had promised that the money it would save by abolishing the grant would be used to improve higher education, but so far the students have noticed little to no change.

Student unions have therefore called for compensation. But, to add insult to injury, the current cabinet has only earmarked one billion euros to that end. That means approximately 1,000 euros per student. 

The chair of the Dutch Student Union (LSVb), Ama Boahene, stated in an interview with DUB that her top priority in 2022 is to fight for compensation to the current generation of students. Other organisations, such as the Dutch National Student Association (ISO) and the union FNV Young & United, are on the same page. Using the hashtag #Nietmijnschuld (Not My Debt or Not My Fault. In Dutch, the word schuld means both debt and fault, Ed.) they are taking action in several ways. 

The first one is a petition, which has been signed by over 60,000 students so far. Then, on Saturday, they're going to hold a big demonstration on Museum Square in Amsterdam. The protest is supported by a number of political parties and groups, most of them left-wing. But there are supporters in parties on the centre and right sides of the political spectrum as well, such as D66, CDA and ChristenUnie.

The Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Robbert Dijkgraaf, said "he completely understands" why students are disappointed. According to him, the billion euros are "a kind of recognition". He echoed, therefore, the speech of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who said the amount was not meant as compensation, but rather a concession. Dijkgraaf is going to see whether the cabinet can offer other things to this generation of students, but giving them more than one billion euros is out of the question.

How do students themselves experience this? Apart from the fact that they have contracted a debt, they're also being forced to follow most of their classes online because of the pandemic. Do they feel like losers?

Well, not necessarily. Some students do not feel like losers at all and there are even some who took advantage of the opportunity to borrow money without interest to make investments. 

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