Dutch News reports that Ministers and two opposition parties on Wednesday reached a deal to abolish student grants from the start of the 2015 academic year, freeing up €1bn to spend on improving educational standards.
Describing the move as the most important educational reform in 30 years, education minister Jet Bussemaker said the change will benefit students by funding better and more challenging higher education.
However, student unions say the move will add at least €15,000 to the average debt that students have when they graduate. In addition, the promised improvements in education have to be anchored in law, the student bodies say.
At the moment, Dutch students are given a basic grant of €279.14 if they live away from home and €100.25 if home-based. On average, they leave university with around €15,000 in debts. The loans are subject to interest rate rises.
The new rules state that students whose parents earn less than €46,000 a year or whose parents cannot be traced will still be entitled to a grant.
Students will have 35 years to pay back the loan once they have graduated and do not have to start repaying their debt until they earn at least the minimum wage.
However, the student public transport card, which entitles students to use trams, buses and trains free of charge either at weekends or during the week, will remain.
It will also be extended to cover vocational training students (mbo) who currently have to pay for their own transport costs.
The end of student grants will affect all new bachelor’s and master’s students from 2015.
The deal was reached with the D66 Liberals and the left-wing greens GroenLinks, whose support is necessary to make sure the reforms get through the upper house of parliament.