The introduction of the student loan system, and the abolishment of the basic study grant in 2015 did not change the accessibility of higher education in the Netherlands, according to a study by central planning office CPB. After the student loan system was introduced, about 85 percent of HAVO and VWO students went on to study at HBO or university level – the same as when the study grant system was still in place.
According to researcher Jonneke Bolhaar, there was a difference in the year before the student loan system was introduced, with more young people opting to start studying immediately instead of taking a gap year, so that they would still fall under the basic grant. But if you look at the proportion of young people who started studying within three years of finishing secondary education, there is no difference between the loan system and the grant. This includes students from all income groups.
The researchers found that students borrow more than they would have received with the basic grant. Before 2015, HAVO students received an average of 162 euros per month from the grants – the basic grant plus the additional grant meant for students whose parents can’t afford to support them – and 43 euros from loans. After the introduction of the loan system, HAVO students receive an average of 80 euros from grants and 225 euros from loans.
Under the basic grant system, VWO students on average received 187 euros from grants and 69 euros from loans. Under the loan system, they get an average of 61 euros from grants and 349 euros from loans. This effect of borrowing more is visible in all income groups, but strongest among students from low-income, while this group saw their financial situation deteriorate least thanks to the additional grant.
“Students may experience a threshold to borrow, and once they have crossed that threshold, they can more easily take out a larger loan,” the CPB explained. It may also have to do with the fact that borrowing money is “more common” now as a larger proportion of students do it.
The researchers also found that students aren’t working more often now that the loan system is in place. On average over 60 percent of HAVO student and 45 percent of VWO work in addition to their studies – about the same as when the basic grant was still in place.
Based on the results of this study, the CPB sees no reason to abolish the loan system or to expand or increase the additional grant. “If you think it is important that everyone can study, and that certain groups are not disproportionately disadvantaged, we see no reason to reverse the loan system,” Bolhaar said.