2 June 2017 • HOP, by Bas Belleman
Results of the student loan system: even fewer MBO students entering higher education
Even fewer senior secondary vocational education (MBO) students are enrolling in higher education since the basic grant was abolished. The source of this information is an annual report that monitors the results of the new student loan system. Some of these students are afraid to take out a loan.
Opponents of the new student loan system, in which students no longer receive a basic grant, were afraid that the more vulnerable young people – especially the disabled, MBO students, and young people without highly educated parents – would suffer. After all, higher education is costing thousands of euros more.
And the latest Monitor Beleidsmaatregelen (monitor of policy measures) confirms this: even fewer MBO students are enrolling immediately at a university of applied sciences. Before the elimination of the basic grant was announced (2011), 46% of pupils with a level 4 secondary vocational education diploma went on to a university of applied sciences. In September 2016, this was only 41%. This was the second year since the introduction of the new student loan system.
The Dutch National Students’ Association (ISO) and the Dutch National Student Union (LSVb) are concerned. ‘These figures show that the educational divide is only growing,’ says Jarmo Berkhout, Chairman of the LSVb. His colleague at ISO, Jan Sinnige, wants changes made to the supplementary grant. ‘As it is now, students have to wade through tons of paperwork to prove they are entitled to this grant. The government could definitely make it easier for these applicants.’
Outgoing Minister Bussemaker is more positive. She emphasises that things are going better for most groups of students: students with a functional disability (from dyslexia to neuromuscular diseases) are simply continuing their education. In 2015, the first year without the basic grant, they were apparently getting cold feet. By this academic year, these numbers are practically back to their normal level.
But what about the MBO students? Well, as Bussemaker sees it, at least it’s not any worse. In an initial response, she wrote that she wants to do something about their ‘loan aversion’ and will be discussing this with the student organisations.
Fear of loans
The monitor confirms that the majority (54%) of MBO students have a real block when it comes to loans. This is only 36% among general secondary education (HAVO) students and 27% among pre-university education (VWO) students. Young people whose parents didn’t go on to higher education often have a strong aversion to loans as well (48%).
HAVO and VWO students usually get over their fear of loans, but MBO students have a harder time of it. According to the monitor, this is more often a reason for them not to enrol in higher education at all.
For that matter, though, young people are still fairly uninformed about student finance. Less than 30% say they ‘know very much’ about the supplementary grant and less than 20% know much about the flexible loan conditions: students now have a much longer time to pay off their loan, and the monthly amounts are considerably lower.