Student life

Former student loses court case and has to pay off within 15 years

A former student has lost a court case and will have to pay off her student debt of 39,000 euros within 15 years. She asked to be given, like others, 35 years.

(Photo: Conny Schneider via Unsplash)

The woman initially obtained a Bachelor’s degree from a university of applied sciences and subsequently took a university Master’s programme. In the Bachelor’s phase she received a basic student grant for four years, before starting the Master’s programme in September 2017.

The student argued that she was studying in two regimes at the same time. One debt accrued under the old system with a basic student grant, while the other debt occurred only after 2015 and in her view, came under the new system with the more generous payback rules. Why should she not be able to choose which payback rules to follow?

That is not how it works, the Ministry of Education countered. After all, the student got the basic student grant for the full four years. She was not adversely affected by the new student financing; there was no grant available for her Master’s programme anyway. A loan was the only possibility.

That was the view taken by the Court as well. The former student also argued that it was not fair: her brother took a Bachelor’s and Master’s programme at a university and he was allowed to choose. But, according to the Court, there is a difference: her brother actually missed out on the basic student grant for his Master’s.

The appeal was therefore dismissed. Former students at universities of applied sciences need to bear in mind that they are not always allowed to choose under which payback conditions they fall if they subsequently take a Master’s programme.

The ruling is not beneficial to the woman. In court she made reference to the amount of her mortgage repayments, which did not alter the judge’s decision.

There is indeed a considerable difference between the regimes. If her income is high enough, she now has to pay back around 2,600 euros per year, plus interest. Under the new system the figure would be a little over 1,100 euros per year.

HOP, Bas Belleman

HOP Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau

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