Students Take to the Streets for Fair Loan Compensation

By Christina Kordes | Campus | February 9, 2022

Cover Illustration: Compensatie Protest in Museumplein, Amsterdam February 5th, 2022. Christina Kordes / The Amsterdammer

Campus reporter Christina Kordes gives a run-down on a pressing issue for many Dutch University students: the government’s student loan system. Amid last weekend’s 10,000-strong protest, she provides insights from those affected to shed light on their unjust financial struggles.

Approximately 10,000 people protested for the #NIETMIJNSCHULD campaign in Amsterdam’s city center on Saturday, February 5, 2022. This protest, organized by the student organization FNV Young & United, calls for fair compensation for all students who did not receive a study grant from the government of The Netherlands.

In 2015, the incumbent government abolished the study grant system, which allowed students to study at universities with government funding. The money allotted to students under the grant system turned out to be unaffordable because the number of students at Dutch universities continued to increase over the years. The global financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent Great Recession also influenced this financial cutback, leading to the implementation of the loan system currently in place.

This change led to many students accumulating thousands of euros in debt throughout their time completing their degrees. According to NL Times, a four-year degree costs the average Dutch student around €50,000. DutchNews.nl reports that this leaves the average student with a debt of €15,000, sometimes even significantly higher. The government justified their decision to change the system by claiming to invest the money saved on grants in better-financing education. This promise was not entirely met. At the end of 2021, the newly appointed government announced that they would revert to the system followed prior to 2015. 

Compensatie Protest in Museumplein, Amsterdam February 5th, 2022. Christina Kordes / The Amsterdammer

This decision follows several debates in the Dutch parliament and pressure from youth organizations. Since this transition is not likely to take effect before 2024, current and recently graduated students have expressed that they felt unfairly treated. To demand appropriate compensation, they took their frustration to the streets.

Alina Danii Bijl, chairwoman of FNV Young & United, says: “We have fought for the abolishment of the loan system and compensation of our student funds for a whole generation. All we ask from the government is an equal playing field.” The call “het is niet mijn schuld” (“it is not my fault”) echoed everywhere at the protest on Saturday afternoon. Around 10,000 people of all ages gathered in front of the FNV stage on the Museumplein equipped with flags and hand-drawn signs. FNV Vice President Yasmin Ait Abderrahman hosted the event calling for fair compensation, which included numerous speakers. After about an hour of speeches and chanting, the protestors started their 4 km route around the city center. 

One participant of the protest was Aemy Hooijer (21). She said, “I feel like we are part of a field experiment which did not work, and now we suffer from it. The government knows it is not fair, because they offer a little compensation, but it is not enough. I am here because I hope we will get fair compensation.” Her friend, Joram van Velzen (23), expressed his frustration saying, “I think it is insulting that it should be acceptable for us to have this huge amount of debt. If it is not okay for the next generation and it was not okay for the previous one, then it is not okay for us.” Although there were mainly young people at the protest, there was also strong support for the cause by parents. Anita Hajee (62) was affected by the consequences the system had on her son’s education, and called for an increase in compensation: “A whole generation did not get money for their studies and they have huge debts. For example, if they want to get a mortgage to buy a house, it is impossible if you already have a huge debt because of your studies.” 

Bijl was happy to see the size the protest reached. “This is the biggest protest we have had so far”, she said. However, FNV Young & United’s efforts are not over. She addressed all students with a call to action, to support their cause and strengthen pressure on the government: “come to the protests, send emails to your representatives, organize your own student events and include everybody from your parents to your neighbors.” 

Christina Kordes is a student at the University of Amsterdam. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Amsterdammer. 

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