Facebookafbeelding bij de site waarin opgeroepen wordt een tikkie naar Mark Rutte te sturen

‘Unlucky’ students demand compensation for student debt

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Students who no longer receive a basic student grant have launched a playful action to demand that Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte pay back their student debt. However, actually compensating them does not appear to be such an easy matter.

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It started as a joke, but has now grown into a serious protest. At the beginning of this week, Fontys student Youri Hoogewoning called on students to send a repayment request – or ‘tikkie’, after the Dutch app Tikkie – in large numbers to Rutte. “We want our money back, because we are caught between the abolition and the reintroduction of the basic student grant,” wrote Hoogewoning.

App messages
More than 66,000 students have already said they will take part in the action. Whether or not they all send a ‘tikkie’ on 24 November – the date chosen by Hoogewoning for huge numbers of students to click on ‘send’ – remains to be seen. The messages will not in fact go straight to the Prime Minister, but to the general telephone number of the conservative liberal VVD’s parliamentary group in the House of Representatives. The PvdA (Social Democrats), GroenLinks green party and Democrats 66 (D66), which share responsibility for introducing the new student loan system, can also expect messages from students through the app.

Some repayment requests are already flowing in to VVD and D66, often for the maximum amount of 750 euros. The parties have worked out a standard reply. “Thanks for your tikkie. Have you got change for 1.9 billion euros?” asks D66. According to the party, this is the amount invested annually in education and research. “As for the student loan system, we are prepared to look, together with other parties, at changing the current system”, adds the message from D66.

Ramping up the pressure
The VVD party is the only remaining defender of the current loan system. This government wants to adhere to the arrangements in the coalition agreement, but there is a strong possibility that the next government will have to come up with other plans.

“Nice promises, but still no action,” writes Hoogewoning on his Facebook page. For this reason, he wants to ramp up the pressure by working with the Dutch Federation of Trade Unions (FNV) and the Dutch National Union of Students. “They also want us to receive compensation for our student debts. We’ve been discussing some really awesome plans with them to make sure that something actually happens.” What these plans exactly entail will only be revealed after the weekend.

Tricky puzzle
But compensation for the loan system students will be a thorny problem. Lodewijk Asscher, leader of the PvdA, appears to be a supporter of compensation. The Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) party, which also opposes the loan system, talks in the newspaper Trouw of a tricky puzzle. “One in three students used the loan to do things other than study. Are we going to compensate those students too?” asks CDA Member of Parliament Harry van der Molen in the newspaper. The VVD party does not want to comment on the discussion at present.

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