10 October 2017 • HOP, by Bas Belleman
No basic grant, but a thousand euro discount for first-year students
The basic grant is not making a comeback in the new coalition agreement, but first-year students will receive a discount off tuition fees of a thousand euros. This discount also applies to second-year Education in Primary School students.
This news was leaked through the Algemeen Dagblad and has been confirmed to HOP. Next week, the VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie parties will be presenting the coalition agreement, which also includes this plan.
VVD and D66 have cancelled the basic grant together with PvdA and GroenLinks in order to allocate more funding to higher education, with a total amount of up to several hundred million euros.
But in their election campaigns, CDA and ChristenUnie pleaded passionately for a reintroduction of the basic grant, at least for bachelor’s students. The compromise – reduced tuition fees – did not come as a surprise.
By offering a tuition discount to first-year students, the parties aim to make higher education more accessible to students with lower incomes or who are unsure whether they are up to the challenge of a higher education degree programme.
After all, this has been the most explosive topic in recent years, namely the increasing inequality of educational opportunity. For example, the discontinuation of the basic grant would make it more difficult for some groups of students – such as senior secondary vocational education students – to progress to higher education.
As was feared, fewer young people enrolled in higher education the first year after the basic grant was discontinued. But in the year that followed, enrolment went up and, this academic year, enrolment numbers have increased further.
The extra discount for Education in Primary School students (one thousand euros off second-year tuition fees) is intended to encourage young people to pursue a career in primary education. Due in part to stricter requirements for the Education in Primary School programmes, fewer students have enrolled in these programmes.
Primary schools are already suffering from a shortage of teachers and when the baby boomers begin retiring in large numbers in a few years, this shortage will only become more pronounced – not to mention the challenges posed by all the media coverage about low salaries and high workloads.
The discontinuation of the basic grant met with strong opposition from the two national student organisations LSVb and ISO, which demonstrated together with their constituents at the Malieveld and never miss an opportunity to plea for a reintroduction of the grant.
In an initial response to the news, ISO chairperson Rhea van der Dong referred to the tuition fee discount of a thousand euros for first-year students as ‘pure symbolic politics’. After all, the basic grant was worth much more than this discount. ‘If you consider the fact that students have an average student loan debt of twenty thousand euros, this is really nothing more than a drop in the bucket.’