[Column] Money stress

Like so many ‘unlucky generation’ students, columnist Bas Rooijakkers is concerned about money. But he has come up with a solution for huge study debts.

Bas Rooijakkers: “Until a new Cabinet takes office, I’m holding my breath.” (Photo: Sam Rentmeester)

What gives you the most stress? Too much time on your phone? Not doing enough sports? The thing that gives my generation – the pechgeneratie or loosely translated the unlucky generation – the most stress is money. On 1 January 2024, we will have to pay an extra 2.56% (in Dutch) interest rate. The House of Representatives may have just voted for a lower interest rate on study debts (in Dutch), but it is as yet unclear how much lower and when it will take effect. Until a new Cabinet takes office, I’m holding my breath.

The increase in the interest rate for study debts is worrying, but it is not the first time that it is so high. In 2008 the interest rate even went up to 4%, putting an even greater financial strain on students. It seems that stress about money is an ongoing problem for students that is not easy to solve.

All sorts of things have been thought of to reduce the stress among students, such as lowering the binding recommendation on the continuation of studies (in Dutch). These initiatives are welcome and could help reduce the academic pressure, but they do not take away the underlying worries about money. Students still have to borrow money to cover their study fees, and the fear of enormous debts after graduating weighs heavily on their shoulders.

Almost all students take out loans which puts a huge pressure on them to graduate as quickly as possible

This makes me think about my board year in which, with other representatives from various study associations, I had discussions with a TU Delft representative. TU Delft wanted to understand the cause of students’ stress. The discussion started with issues like workload and social stress, but it soon became clear that the pressure to perform and financial worries were the biggest causes. Almost all students take out loans which puts a huge pressure on them to graduate as quickly as possible. Most of them do not even dare check the size of their debt with the Government.

The TU Delft staff member did not have an immediate answer to this issue apart from recommending students to put some time aside every day to do sports and relax. We also did not expect TU Delft to suddenly waive all the study loans.

What strikes me the most is the remarkable calmness of students in response to all of this. I suspect that we have become used to hearing bad news and sometimes even expect another blow to follow. When I started studying, I understood that I was starting with a disadvantage. You rarely know what you want to do with your life when you’re 18, so you go to university. If you need to borrow money to do this, so be it. I did not start my studies believing in the promise that I would get a better education. The only thing that pains me is the promise at the time that we could take out a loan for free. That is why this 2.56% hurts so much.

But don’t worry, dear reader, as I have a solution. At the beginning of 2022 all the student loans put together amounted to EUR 27 billion. The Netherlands has a pension fund worth no less than EUR 1,500 billion. So my proposal is to invest in the future and pay off the student loans from the pension fund. You may find this an unusual proposal, but just think that in 2018, for example, the pension funds lost EUR 375 billion – or nearly 14 times the total student loan – in speculative investments (in Dutch). If we examine these figures closely, it is clear that investing in young people is an excellent alternative.

Bas Rooijakkers is a master’s student in Applied Physics. He was born in Brabant and spent part of his youth on Curaçao. He enjoys jogging and since the corona pandemic has also picked up cycling. He is also always in for a coffee or a craft beer.

Bas Rooijakkers / Columnist

Columnist Bas Rooijakkers

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