Eight questions about financial aid

The Dutch university study financing system will be changing officially in September. But what does that mean, exactly? Are you still ‘safe’ as a student? Here is some background info, as well as some questions – and answers.

The new law is the biggest change in Dutch education in 30 years, according to minister Bussemaker. In the coming fall term, the basic grant that all university students receive will be replaced with a loan. The money that the government is posed to save thanks to the change – one billion euros – will be reinvested in education.

Many student parties, both in Groningen and across the Netherlands, have strongly objected to the proposed change, mainly out of concern that the new system creates obstacles for access to higher education.

What is the new system, exactly?

If you enrol at a research or applied science university (HBO) from September onward, you will no longer receive a grant to do so. Instead, students can take out a loan that they will get paid  – up to 1,016 euros – each month.
The funds have to be repaid after graduation. You will now have 35 years to do that instead of 15, but the government promises that payments will never exceed four percent of your income (after deducting minimum wage). Previously, that was 12 percent. Your parents can also help you out under the new system.

But what if my parents don’t have a lot of money? Will I get any financial aid? 

Sure you will! If your parents earn less than 46,000 euros a year, you will still receive a supplementary grant from the government. That is a maximum of 365 euros a month for students whose parents earn less than 30,000 euros. You don’t have to pay this back, but you do have to get your degree within ten years.

What if you are enrolled before 15 September? Are you home free?

Not exactly. Fourth year bachelor’s students have a problem: up until now, they could go ahead and get a grant for their master’s year. Not anymore.

Also, if you have finished your bachelor’s degree and started a master’s, you won’t get the grant for the master, either.

I actually want to change my study. Can I do that without losing my grant? 

Definitely! If you switch from HBO to a university or change your study, you retain the right to the grant for three years, which you had when you started studying. Even if you took a year off and are beginning again in September, you still have the same rights to the grant.

What about the performance scheme? Is that also being done away with?

Nope! The performance scheme will remain valid for the money that you receive from the government, covering supplemental grants and the student travel card. The 1 February rule (If you drop out of the first year of your first academic programme before 1 February, you don’t have to repay the grant) still counts, too.

What about earning money on the side? 

From now on, all students  – including internationals – who fall under the new loan system can earn as much as they want. But if they still receive a grant, the limit of 13,856.11 euros still counts. If you approach that limit, then you have to end your financial aid.

So, if you fall under the loan system, are you pretty much screwed?

Well, there is one silver lining. A voucher of 2,000 euros will be given to students who will soon fall under the loan system. They can use that for five to ten years after graduation for continuing education.

Does all of this also count for international degree students?

Yup. Financial aid will remain the same for students who were already receiving it, but new degree students  – not exchange students – beginning in September will have the same rules applied to them as the Dutch students. The amount of hours that students have to work in order to qualify for the financial aid will remain the same – 56 hours a month – but like Dutch students, there will no longer be a limit on how much money they can earn.