Not good, money back!
Over 21,000 euros. That’s how much money I could have saved on my student debt if I had enrolled one year earlier. It seems that the next generation of students won’t have to suffer the same fate. In September, the House of Representatives voted in favor of several motions urging the cabinet to abolish the student loan system. But how to move forward from here?
Readers of this column will hopefully know by now that the student loan system proved rather unsuccessful. After seven years, politicians, too, began to realize that ‘it is undesirable when young people have to look for work and housing after their graduation saddled with accumulated student debt,’ as stated in the motion submitted by Gert-Jan Segers and Pieter Heerma on September 23. Our own TU/e house of representatives, the University Council, had already announced that inevitable conclusion back in 2019.
The debate on how to compensate the generation of students between 2015 and 2022 is currently ongoing. Debt relief, job market discounts, study vouchers; a variety of schemes and regulations has been proposed, but a global optimum is nowhere in sight. The result? Polarization among the duped generation of students saddled with a student loan.
As a result of their aversion to accumulating debts, some students decided to work hard alongside their studies, and they now demand compensation for those ‘lost’ student days. Others decided to live their student life to the fullest and accepted the fact that they would have to face the financial consequences later in their lives. This group, by contrast, would rather see their financial shortage compensated.
I believe that there is only one way to prevent the latter group from feeling left out in the cold: not good, money back! The sales pitch from politicians led to high expectations at the time. Now that it has become apparent that the loan system doesn’t work, the customers – i.e., the students – should get their money back. After all, when I buy a television set that doesn’t function, I also get a refund.
The students, incidentally, won’t be the only ones anxiously following this debate. The abolishment of the loan system will also have serious consequences for teaching activities at the institutions. As far as TU/e is concerned, one should think of certain projects within innovation Space, or the development of new, innovative education concepts. All this is (partly) financed with money that became available after the basic grant was thrown out in 2014. It would be a waste if these projects, from which every student at TU/e benefits, were to be put on halt because government funding will now be spent elsewhere. It seems improbable that the flow of money will be cut off completely, but the ministry of education still hasn’t made it clear who will end up paying the bill.
That’s why we will probably have to reluctantly celebrate the loan system’s second lustrum. Parliament can submit as many motions as it wants urging the rudderless outgoing cabinet to abolish the loan system, but no action will be taken any time soon. Assuming that the process of political decision-making drops at the same rate as the maximum speed on our highways, I’ll probably be in my late thirties before we arrive at the desired outcome.