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Opinion 'Please say no, Duthler!'

With the majority in the Eerste Kamer depending on VVD-dissident Anne-Wil Duthler, there is a chance to stop the increase in interest for student loans. In an open letter Lennard Pierey of Lijst Calimero calls out to students to persuade Duthler to vote ‘no’.
By Lennard Pierey / Photo by Rijksvastgoedbedrijf, Corne Bastiaansen

Dear fellow students in Groningen,

Political news from The Hague isn’t always sexy. I get it. The endless political squabble often seems like a far-flung event.

Quite often, though, there will be moments which will have a tremendous influence on students.

This is such a moment.

Minister of Education Ingrid van Engelshoven has proposed to increase the interest rate on student loans. This would be implemented from 2020 on, and imposed on all new students. Her main argument in favour of this? ‘Keeping our government wealthy’ – at the expense of students.

Currently, students finish their studies with an average debt of €21.000, which is expected to increase in the next few years.

Since the creation of the current student loan system, there has been a substantial increase in students with problematic debts. An interest rate hike on student loans will inevitably lead to several thousands of euros extra in debt, which in the long run has a severe negative impact on society and our economy.

Additionally, an increase in interest rates – and debt – will be a barrier for many prospective students to start their studies. The accessibility of higher education and student wellbeing will be gravely endangered.

This is bad for all of us.

It will especially have severe consequence here, in the the best student city of the Netherlands. Groningen is so charming in part thanks to students life – associations, university activities, sports, and more. The financial pressure this proposal creates will give us less freedom and space to develop ourselves inside and outside our studies, even though the labour market often expects this from us.

In recent years, more students have been suffering from mental health problems. Thousands of euros extra in debt will only increase these problems.

Van Engelshoven has avoided objections by saying ‘guys, what are you talking about? A few thousand euros is only a few extra beers a month less.’

That’s some serious downplay.

She also ignored calls for a study into the consequences of this proposal for student wellbeing, which shows she is either is oblivious or she just doesn’t care. Perhaps both are true; quite a lot of unions and organisations, including from within her own party, have fiercely opposed this proposal.

Let’s raise our voices

On May 28th the Senate will vote on this proposal. Our current cabinet had a slim majority of 1 seat in the Senate. This majority was lost last week after senator Anne-Wil Duthler was expelled from the VVD-faction, after accusations of shady financing. Duthler is a professor at the University of Amsterdam and has a lot of contact with students; she was giving a lecture when she heard the news.

Whether these accusations are founded doesn’t matter to me right now. Her departure from the VVD-fraction means that Duthler doesn’t have to vote with the VVD anymore. Her vote can be the swing vote, as pretty much no one is in favour of this this disastrous proposal, not even party members of the governing parties.

As students from Groningen, we should raise our voices. It’s up us to convince senator Duthler to use her last moments of political power to make the difference in favour of students, so she can still give lectures for years to come with a clean slate.

That’s why I am calling upon all of you to message senator Duthler to ask her to vote against this proposal. United we stand, for current and coming generations of students.

You can contact her via her email: a.w.duthler@duthler.nl or her parliamentary website. I’ve made a concept letter for you to use.

We can do this.

Lennard Pierey is a student, he is in the O&O council of the Faculty of Medical Sciences for Lijst Calimero and he is a candidate-member for the University council.

Nederlands

06 May 2019 | 6-5-2019, 15:37