‘No reason to adapt loans system’
Various university and secondary school student organisations were in The Hague to protest the loan system. The demonstrators called for education minister Bussemaker to reintroduce the traditional study financing system for university tuition, but during a debate in the Lower House, she made clear that she has no plans to do so.
The Socialist Party, Christian Democrats and Christian Union are as alarmed by the effects of the loans systems as the student groups. A report from the ministry of Education and the Dutch Inspectorate of Education revealed that 15 per cent fewer young people whose parents are not well educated are enrolling at universities, and among students with some sort of handicap, 20 per cent fewer are enrolling since the implementation of the loans system.
‘If you don’t so something, you will go down in the history books as the inequality minister. You have failed as a minister’, SP Lower House member Jasper van Dijk cried. ‘Your loans system is misguided and was rashly implemented’, CDA member Michel Rog echoed.
But D66, GreenLeft (GroenLinks), the labour party (PvdA) and the right-wing liberal party (VVD) immediately countered those claims. ‘By going on about how students are going to go so deep into debt, you are actively discouraging the students from going to university. This system does not prevent anyone from studying’, D66 member Paul van Meenen said. ‘You are scaremongering’, said VVD member Duisenberg. ‘We knew that there would be a temporary decline, and we are following through with what was agreed upon.’
According to Bussemaker, everyone just needs to take a deep breath and take a calm look at the numbers. ‘We expected a temporary decline. And if we look at the preliminary registration numbers, we can actually already see an increased of 4 to 5 per cent. But we will only be able to assess what the structural impact of this has been in another 3 to 4 years.’
The minister did emphasise that she will do everything in her power to address inequality if that proves necessary. In that vein, she plans to work closely with educational institutions, municipalities and care organisations.
She says that the apparent decline in the number of handicapped students registering at universities in particular was striking. ‘That is not what we want to see. We don’t know what the root cause is of that decrease, but part of the solution may lie in the fact that little use is being made of financial support (profileringsfonds, which provides financial aid to students with a handicap, ed.) from universities. Perhaps we should consider renaming that fund’, she says.