The education allowance is intended for students who are totally or partially unable to work in combination with their studies because of an impairment. Since 2015 municipalities have been allowed to decide how much money they set aside for this allowance. That has led to widely differing amounts: in Heerlen a student with an impairment gets an allowance of 31 euros per month, while in Zwolle that student would get ten times as much, according to a survey in 2018.
Numerous attempts have been made to put an end to the differences in allowances between municipalities. In 2019 a motion was passed to equalise the amounts. But that was ‘declared controversial’ when the government fell. The outgoing government called on municipalities not to wait for a new amendment to the law and to abide by the new regulation providing for equal amounts, though not all municipalities followed through with the request.
300 euros per month
The amendment that was debated on Thursday gives the municipalities no choice as from April 2022. A fixed amount will then be introduced for each age category. This means an allowance of €300 for students aged 21 or over and an allowance of €150 for students aged 18 to 20 in every municipality.
In many cases this will mean that students are better off. But in Amsterdam, for example, students aged 23 and over presently receive a higher allowance: €385 per month. These current, higher allowances will not be decreased but new allowances will be. Education allowances that are currently lower will be increased.
The Dutch Student Union (LSVb) is very pleased that the allowance will be the same everywhere. “Naturally it’s distressing that it is happening only now, because that allowance is very important for students that are entitled to it”, says LSVb chair Ama Boahene.
However, she finds it strange that under the new regulation some decreases will also be made in April. “Why shouldn’t it be more?”, she wonders. “That’s a campaign we can wage.”
Information about allowance
In any case, says LSVb, not all the problems have been solved: the supply of information about the education allowance by the municipalities has to be improved.
“Municipal councillors call us to ask how many students with an impairment are living in their municipality. That shows they are not in possession of all the facts”, says Boahene. In her view, this is another battle to be won: ensuring that students get the right information about the allowance from their municipality.