Column: Compensation for unlucky generation

‘A mere one thousand euros in compensation? Take action! Protesting can be learned.’
Steven Snijders

Are you afraid to log in to MijnDuo? Checking out your personal debt is quite confronting. You are not the only one. Data from the central bureau of statistics CBS* shows that 7 out of every ten students has student debts, averaging 700 euros per month. Suppose you manage to graduate within the nominal three years for a bachelor and 2 years for a master’s. In that case, you embark on your working life with a debt of 42,000 euros. Relatively speaking, a debt of 20,000 euros is considered a small bump within the larger debt landscape.

I rarely check my Mount Everest and frequently feel awkward discussing the whole loan system. It feels “off” to discuss my personal financial situation. But, for the present generation, it is more relevant than ever to do so anyway. The new cabinet, the fourth under Rutte, has re-evaluated its position on the loan system it introduced in 2015. The basic student grant is to be reintroduced in 2023.

De studenten vóór ons krijgen een beurs, de studenten ná ons krijgen een beurs, en de pechgeneratie komt er berooid vanaf

The marketing for the loan system was slick. The loans would not affect a future mortgage, and the money thus saved was to be invested in education. Both these promises have been broken. The mortgage promise, in particular, can barely be repaired. With the housing market spun out of control, student debts have far-reaching repercussions, determining in what region you may be able to acquire a house and in which region not. Moreover, less affluent students are pressured into skipping extracurricular activities since a year on the board of any association comes at a steep cost. The loan system increases the inequality between students from disadvantaged and wealthy families. Fortunately, the system is to be abolished. But what will become of us, the unlucky generation?

Rutte himself took eight years with a grant to complete his university education, but his new cabinet has only earmarked a modest sum to compensate the unlucky generation. The basic student grant would have provided a student who completes their studies in five years with a sum of 17,000 euros. The cabinet currently plans to offer each student approximately 1000 euros in compensation. The students that came before us received a grant, the students that succeed us will receive a grant, and the unlucky generation is left destitute,

Oh well, getting angry is useless.

Except that it actually is not.

Protesting students have managed to get the loan system abolished. I, too, protested in Wageningen and The Hague last year. It required me to cross a threshold, but anyone can learn to protest. A national demonstration has been planned for 5 February to demand decent compensation for the unlucky generation. Sign up here!

*All links in this column lead to Dutch content.

Steven is a master’s student of Economy and Governance and enjoys playing squash. He is always open to a game of squash and a good conversation. You can reach him by email.

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