New Dutch student loans: don’t worry!

Author: Hans Vossensteyn


In January 2015, the Dutch Senate passed a bill for a new student financing regime in which students can now borrow the basic allowances they previously received as a grant. Therefore student unions, some politicians and various other voices in society now fear a decline in higher education participation. ‘While the government proclaims that we need to invest in the knowledge society, students themselves are asked to pay for these investments’ ( It is argued that students, particularly from low-income families, are less likely to attend higher education if the private costs increase.

However, CHEPS research from 2013 indicated that in most countries where tuition fees and/or student loans were increased, participation in higher education was not harmed. Besides some temporary effects where new groups of students have to get used to ‘the new situation’, participation patterns generally re-establish after one or two years. In the Netherlands, this is precisely what happened after the introduction of the performance related grant (Prestatiebeurs) in 1996. We also see this currently happening in England. After the enormous tuition rise in 2012 – from £3,350 to £9,000 – applications dropped by 9%. In 2013, applications were back at 2011 levels and in 2014 they increased by 3.5%. Most striking is the fact that the 2014 UCAS figures demonstrate a 10% increase in applications from low-income students compared to 2013! This makes ‘the difference in entry rates between rich and poor to reach historic lows’ stated the Guardian. According to UCAS statistics, this trend appears to continue in 2015.

All of this means that Dutch students who intend to enroll in higher education this summer for the first time, as well as their parents, should not worry too much about the new arrangements. Even though it feels unfair that they may have to borrow more for their studies than their older sisters, brothers or friends, they are very likely to still benefit substantially from a higher education degree. Their job opportunities are much better than for non-graduates. Their future salaries will be much higher than for non-graduates. And the new repayment conditions – including a 35-year repayment period and a maximum of 4% of one’s income to be repaid – will guarantee that their future debt will be manageable (

For politicians and student unions this all implies that they should also not worry too much. Maybe the number of new entrants in 2015 will slightly decline. However, one can expect that this loss of talent will be recouped one or two years later. The English example demonstrates that even equity issues of fairness between various socio-economic groups are not harmed. Of course, England is not the Netherlands, but I am convinced that smart Dutch youngsters will clearly understand that if they help invest in high quality education, the will get a good return on their investment.

Hans VossensteynAbout Hans Vossensteyn

Hans Vossensteyn is the Director and Senior Research Associate at CHEPS and Professor and Programme Leader of the MBA Hochschul- und Wissenschaftsmanagement at the Hochschule Osnabrück (Germany). His main focus is international comparative research on funding, student financial support, strategic management, internationalisation, quality assurance and study success in higher education. He is also active in various international consultancies, such as in Russia, Mozambique, Uganda, Ethiopia, Lithuania, Latvia, Tunisia and Turkey.


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