October 7 2019 • HOP, Bas Helleman
What happened to that 200 million from the student travel pass?
Will research universities and universities of applied sciences actually get an extra 200 million euros from the savings on the student pass for public transport? This is one of the many questions about the new education budget posed to the government.
The Lower house has submitted 338 written questions about the budget for the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The questions are meant to be neutral and factual, they don’t mention any names or political parties. But that doesn’t mean the questions aren’t tough.
The Members of Parliament want to know what is going on with the student pass for public transport. The previous government had planned to save 200 million euros a year on this pass. The savings would be passed on to the research universities and the universities of applied sciences. Will this still happen?
The idea behind the savings was simple: students should travel more outside of rush hour. Research universities and universities of applied sciences collaborated in a programme entitled ‘Beter benutten’ (Making better use). If the institutions adjusted the start time of their classes, busses and trains would be less packed.
And that is quite painful for the four parties touting the so-called ‘student advance’ (VVD, D66, GroenLinks en PvdA). They wanted to free up hundreds of millions of euros for higher education. They stated that sometime in the 2020s this amount could even reach a billion euros. But this prediction included, quite prematurely, the expected savings on the student pass for public transport.
Their opponents are only too happy to rub this in. One of the questions asked by Members of Parliament right now is “How can we extract 200 million euros from the Beter Benutten programme to invest in quality education?”
Students aren’t supposed to notice any of these cutbacks. Their transport rights shouldn’t be affected. But what if we don’t get these 200 million euros? Another question is if this could lead to “worse conditions for the student pass for public transport?”
The costs for funding student travel in the government budget are quite nontransparent because the ministry tends to shuffle the money around: sometimes it pays the transport companies in December, and sometimes in January. That makes one year look much more expensive than another, without this actually being the case.
The term ‘Beter benutten’ doesn’t feature anywhere in the budget. It does seem that the contract costs for transport companies will decrease in the future, but the ministry has stayed mum on this topic.