The base grant, and inequality in education
It has been a hot topic amongst students, as the ‘basisbeurs’ or base study grant – after being removed seven years ago by Rutte II – has announced its return.
Every Dutch student will now again receive a base grant from the government to promote access to education for all.
This seems like a great turn of events, however, it is not as great as it seems.
Until 2015, every Dutch student living with their parents received a monthly grant of €102.77 from the government, and students living on their own received €286.15. On 11 November 2014, following a surprising collaboration between VVD, PvdA, D66, and GroenLinks, the base study grant was abolished. Whereas before, the government used their budget to give all Dutch students a base grant, this money was now going to go towards more investments in education. Despite the Dutch university system ranking top 10 in the world, the coalition decided more money had to go into improving the university system even more, instead of focusing on fostering equal access to education. 
The abolition of the base study grant had a large, negative effect on the equal access to education. This new system fostered wealth inequality even more, as it creates an even larger barrier for low-income students to enter higher education. The second problem with this abolition of the base grant is that the government not only had and has their priorities wrong, but also did not stay true to their words, as there actually was no increased investment in education as promised. In reality, universities actually received less money per student.  This leads to universities having to use all their energy into maintain their educational quality rather than improving it. 
Now, after backlash, Rutte IV has decided to reintroduce the base grant. Whilst this is a good start, the new base grant is not perfect.. Firstly, the new grant will be a mere €91,- for students living with their parents, and €255,- for students living on their own. Compared to 2015, the grant has become noticeable less, whereas costs of living have significantly increased. What could be covered by €286.15 in 2015, now costs €315.72 in 2022.  The second problem is that this policy makes it seem like Rutte IV is fixing inequality in education, while in truth this policy barely scratches the surface. inequality in education, caused by the increased wealth inequality in general, already starts in primary school. Over the last few years, there has been an increase in the amount of private schools and private school students, as wealthy parents believe that public schools cannot provide high quality education to their kids to the same degree. Similar to this, is that there has been a large rise in private tutoring, also already starting in primary school. This creates not only the problem of unequal access to education, but also can be the start of division in society, as children from wealthy families are separated from students from the average Dutch family.
Therefore, while the base grant is a good start to address wealth inequality, Rutte IV should start tackling the difficult problem of unequal access to education at the root. Rutte IV should reverse and prevent the influence of wealth inequality in the educational system. So on top of increasing the base study grant to at least the level it was in 2015 – adjusted to inflation -, the cabinet should keep investing in education, as “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin
Stay tuned for the last part, in which I will argue for the reintroduction of conscription / a social service.
by Joost Kamp
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