Politicians fear return of grant will attract more foreign students

The reinstatement of the basic student grant has met with a positive reception from all sides of the House of Representatives. But some parties have expressed concern: will this overhaul of student financing end up attracting even more international students to the Netherlands?

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Last Tuesday, the entire House supported the return of the basic student grant. However, as it stands, the grant will be available not only to Dutch students, but also to some international students. A majority of the House harbours concerns about this aspect of the plan.

European students will be entitled to the basic grant if they have lived in the Netherlands for five years, but also, for example, if they work here for at least 56 hours a month. And these are not the only conditions.

International students

Zohair El Yassini of the VVD asked about the consequences of these conditions during last week’s plenary debate. He wants to avoid a situation in which “Juan from Madrid comes to study philosophy in the Netherlands” and receives a grant, while local lad “Sjon, who wants to become an electrician or solar panel installer” misses out.

El Yassini teamed up with René Peters of CDA to table three motions in this regard. They want to know whether the financing rules for international students should be tightened. All three motions were passed on Tuesday.

At the expense of the rest

First and foremost, the members of the House want to know how many European students will be coming to the Netherlands now that the basic student grant is being introduced. If there are too many, this could become a serious drain on the education budget.

In addition, there is a risk of students applying for a grant in two countries at the same time. Although this is not permitted, there are currently no checks in place to address this problem. The motion calls on Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf to come up with a plan to prevent double grants being issued.

Last week, the minister observed that many other European countries are unable to release student data due to privacy laws, but insisted that he wants to put information sharing firmly on the European agenda.

Income limit

Then there is the issue of the supplementary grant. This is made available to students whose parents earn less than 70,000 euros a year. The threshold was set at this level to offer support to middle-income families as well as the less well-off. But should the same threshold apply to students from other European countries? If 70,000 euros is considered a high income in a student’s country of origin, shouldn’t this be taken into account when awarding the supplementary grant?

“I think that’s a creative idea”, Dijkgraaf responded. “To be honest, I have never come across it before, at home or abroad. Uniform standards on the parental income threshold usually apply.” Although he saw some difficulties, he expressed a willingness to look into the matter.

All three motions were therefore passed, with varying majorities. For example, an evaluation of the influx of European students did not win support from PvdA, GroenLinks, Volt or BBB, but did gain backing from SP and Partij voor de Dieren.

The motion on the parental income limit passed by a narrow majority of 83 votes. D66 and PVV were among several parties which voted against, but it met with support from BIJ1 and Partij voor de Dieren.

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