Students are the victims time and time again says the Dutch Student Union (LSVb) (in Dutch), that is organising a protest against interest rate hikes in The Hague on Wednesday. Years after the basic grant was abolished and having faced inadequate compensation, the high interest rate has been quintupled and is having a ‘devastating effect’ on the lives of students and former students, says the LSVb.
DUO recently announced that the interest rate on study loans would rise from 0.46% to 2.56% on 1 January 2024. Former students who are paying off their loans under the old system will face a rise from 0% to 2.95%. In the new system, those in debt will have 35 years in which to pay it back compared to 15 years under the old system.
In the new system, the accumulated interest on a debt of EUR 35,000 comes to about EUR 20,000. Students had not taken this into account, says the LSVb. When they took out the loans, students assumed that the interest would remain zero.
Reason enough for the LSVb to hold banners and demonstrate at 13:30 outside the House of Representatives. They are hoping that thousands of students will join the protest against the interest rate hike. They have several demands: stop the interest rate hike; more compensation for students; a permanent increase in the basic grant; and debt cancellation.
Upon further questioning, this last point appears to be less drastic than it sounds. The LSVb wants the unlucky generation that has to cover debts not to have to pay the amount that they would otherwise have received through a basic grant. Given the forthcoming national elections in November, the LSVb is hoping to have their demands heard.
Why are TU Delft students joining the protest on Wednesday?
Name: Ella van der Aalst
Study: master’s Biomedical Engineering
“I will be there primarily to represent others. Luckily my own study debt is not that high. I am very grateful that my parents had saved money for me and still help out once in a while. But that makes it unfair of course as not everyone has parents that can do this.
I would not have taken out a loan that quickly if I had known that the interest rate could go up. At a certain point, when I received less money from my parents, I raised my loan significantly. I thought at the time that it did not matter as there was no interest rate. It was the cheapest loan you could get.
But recently there have always been new obstacles. First, the basic grant is being reinstated, but not for everyone. Then the compensation is far lower than hoped. Now the interest rate is five times higher. It is one thing after another.
I hope the protest will finally achieve something. It is election time so I hope there are parties that will really bring about change.”
Name: Abdelkader Karbache
Study: master Mechanical Engineering and Sustainable Energy Technology
“I too assumed that the interest would remain zero when I took out my loan. If I had known that the interest rate would go up, I may not have served a board year (as Lijst Bèta council member, Eds.). I am a Muslim and in Islam you may not pay interest rates. Some other Muslim students are really angry about this.
Despite all this, the higher interest rate is not my main reason for joining the protest. I am mostly concerned about the generation that has not received a basic grant. They are worse off than the generations before and after them. It is like having to pay a fine because you happen not have been born a couple of years earlier or later.
I only took a loan for my board year. Before that I worked three days a week to make ends meet. I was able to do that because my studies were not too hard for me. But there are enough students that spend 50 hours on their degree programme every week. They cannot work alongside their study and need to spend time on looking after themselves too. They have to take out a loan.
The interest rate does not have to be reduced, but I do think it would be fair if the generation that did not get the basic grant would have that paid. The authorities should not just put it down to them having bad luck. It’s not their fault. It’s the fault of the Government.”
Name: Matthijs van Teeffelen
Study: Systems Engineering, Policy Analysis and Management, current Student Council member for ORAS
“I will protest because I want the Government to give us more certainty. Many students feel like the new interest rate has been drawn in a lucky dip. I would like the Government to set an interest rate ceiling so that everyone knows what to expect in the future.
An expensive loan acts as a barrier for students to live away from home, do a board year, join a Dream Team, and even study at all. This is especially so for those whose parents are not wealthy.
My student debt has now reached around EUR 40,000. I hope to find more paid work when I do my master’s. It would be good if the amount stays below the EUR 55,000 mark. Perhaps out of self-protection, I have not yet calculated how much interest I will have to pay.
If I had known that the interest rate would shoot up, I may have been more careful. But in truth, how much choice do you really have? Whatever happens, I still need to cover my rent and food costs.
I try to push my thoughts on my student debt aside. If I would stop and think about my student debt every day and how I will lose thousands of euros, I would be very unhappy. I do think it’s important to voice my thoughts at certain times, like now.”
Name: Thom Jansen
Study: master's Industrial Design Engineering
“I go to all the protests that have to do with student grants. A large group of people can really make a statement, especially in election time.
My main reason to be there is to protest against the interest rate hike. Another reason is that the student loan scheme is introduced and then abolished just like that. This will have a major impact on a large group of people. They can’t just say to those students ‘fuck off, solve the problem yourself’! We could not even vote when the loan system was introduced, so that group hardly had any choice in whether or not to take out a loan.
My parents got divorced at the time and sold the house. I had to move out otherwise they would have had to find a bigger flat. So right from the start of studying, half my loan went on rent.
I’m now at about EUR 35,000. I would like to work more, but this means having a lot to do. I try not to let it affect my studies. I really enjoy studying and do not want to have any regrets later that I did not do that extra master’s, or join a Dream Team or whatever.
I am especially angry that the interest rate was so low and is now going to be made so much higher in one go. Will it go up even more in the future? Is there a limit? Everything is up in the air.”