“The basic student grant mustn’t be allowed to disappear”, says Dutch Jean-Paul Grond, law student and chair of the Maastricht student representation party DOPE. “It’s meant to stimulate all students, to make higher education easier to access. It’s not true that the grant is meant to pay your daily living costs, such as groceries or rent. From the €260 you get every month almost €160 is put towards your tuition fees. With the rest, about €100, you can hopefully pay for the books and other study materials. If the government stops the grant, a lot of students will get into trouble. It’s already hard work to complete your studies in the few years that are given. There’s a great deal of pressure. And this will even become more.”
“In Germany the government only supports you if your parents don’t earn enough money”, says Thomas Theelen, third-year German student of Biomedical Sciences. “But after your studies you have to pay back half of that amount. And also, the grant is rarely enough to pay everything. You still need to take out a loan or get a job.” Abolition of the basic student grant in the Netherlands would be a pity, he thinks. “Here you have a much greater chance of being able to study, even if your parents aren’t that rich. But the Dutch students I know do all have a job anyway. The disadvantage is that a job takes time; time you can’t invest as much in your studies.” What would things be like if the Dutch government really abolished the grant, he muses. “A loan is not a real solution, because after graduating you have a debt of €30,000.” Theelen doesn’t mind that students pay their daily living costs from the €260. “It’s not like you can lead a life of luxury, especially when you know that the average rent is pretty high in Maastricht.” Germany should take this system as an example, he concludes.
Luc Lebens, Dutch student of Fiscal Law and Fiscal Economics and board member of the liberal democratic party D66 Maastricht, is not in favour of getting rid of the basic student grant either. “That could never be a stimulus for higher education. I understand that the government has to tighten the purse strings, but is this the best way? I don’t think so.”