Inequality of opportunity is being exacerbated by the student loan system: Nibud

According to a new analysis from the family spending institute Nibud, the elimination of student scholarships in 2015 has made students more financially dependent on their parents and risks harming the prospects of students whose families cannot help them. The study is based on 1,505 university and hbo college students, with 68 percent receiving financial assistance from their parents – an average of €211 per month. Only 58 percent of students were aided by their parents to pay for their education four years ago.

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Children with low-income parents may still be eligible for government assistance. However, the existing system implies that both parents can contribute, which is challenging for many middle-income families, according to Nibud director Arjan Vliegenthart. ‘Students with wealthy parents can study without borrowing money, while others begin their professions with a financial disadvantage,’ Vliegenthart explained.

According to other data, 70% of students borrow money while in college or university, and they graduate with an average debt of €25,000. According to the Nibud study, the number of students who borrow money has decreased, and they are also more likely to live at home.

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Grants are under increasing demand to be reinstated. GroenLinks and the PvdA, two of the four parties that supported their elimination, are now pushing for reform, as are the CDA and ChristenUnie, two of the four outgoing coalition parties. Prior to the removal of subsidies, students who lived away from home were granted €260 per month to help with living expenses and tuition. Students could borrow the rest, and on average, they graduated from university or college with €15,000 in debt.

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If grants are reinstated, education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven estimates that compensating students who have accumulated greater debts will cost the government between €1.4 billion and €11 billion, depending on how it is computed.

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