Students protest in the Utrecht Science Park against mounting student debt. Photo from 2010. Image: DUB

'The days of the student loan system are numbered'

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The student loan system, in place in Dutch higher education since 2015, is set to disappear from September 2024. Daily newspaper AD broke the news, citing sources familiar with the final-stage negotiations to form a new coalition government.

Read in Dutch

No details have emerged yet about the policy set to replace the current loan system. The article (in Dutch), which also appeared in the Amsterdam daily Het Parool, refers to “a new type of student grant”. It also says that it isn't feasibly for the Netherlands to abandon the current student loan system any sooner, due to practical considerations.

Negotiations are still ongoing with regards to a compensation for students who contracted debt under the existing loan system. One insider has been quoted as saying that it would be “very pricey” to provide financial support for all students affected between 2015 and 2024.

In the run-up to the elections, political parties CDA and ChristenUnie said they favoured a return to the basic student grant, while D66 announced plans to provide student support through taxation. The biggest party in the country, VVD, was the only one defending the current loan system.

The Netherlands has had a caretaker government for almost eleven months as talks to form a new coalition drag on. VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie are currently negotiating a continuation of their preceding coalition. They are expected to present an agreement this week, one that will include assurances on student financing.

“Great news”
The Dutch Student Union has issued a happy yet cautious response to the reports. The union welcomes the “great news”, but points out the uncertainties about what will replace it and whether compensation will actually be available to those studying under the current system.

The Dutch National Students’ Association (ISO) is also curbing its enthusiasm for the time being. “Hopefully, we will be able to pop the champagne corks next week.”

Compensation for students currently studying under the loan system could take many forms. The Ministry of Education set out a range of options earlier this year, varying in cost from 1.4 to 11 billion euros.

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