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Students call for rethink on loan interest rates, threaten legal action

THE NETHERLANDS. Student organisations say they will take legal action against the government if it presses ahead with plans to increase the interest rate on student loans.

The ISO and LSR student lobby groups have asked education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven to withdraw the increase, saying it conflicts with an international treaty signed by the Netherlands which states higher education should be ‘gradually made free of charge’.

The government wants to link the interest rate on student loans to the official ten year interest rate on government loans. This, campaigners say, will add some €5,500 to the average student debt if students take the full 35 years to repay the money.

The government scrapped student grants in 2015 and pledged at the time the extra cash would be ploughed back into education. It also said the debt would not have an impact on mortgage applications.

However, it has transpired since then that loans are being included by banks on assessing mortgage applications and that the money saved by scrapping grants has not yet fully been put into higher education.

‘Neither the qualify of education nor students will profit from this interest rate increase,’ LSR chairwoman Brechje Keukens told broadcaster NOS. ‘It is illegal to boost the treasury with students’ money.’ The senate is due to debate the interest rate increase on May 28.

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