Student grants in government’s crosshairs
The amount of time students can spend getting their degree could be cut if plans submitted by a government education panel are adopted.
Although government leaders say that no concrete decisions have been made, a reform package set to be introduced in the spring could well feature cuts to the SU student grant programme as a centrepiece.
Several models have been suggested by the committee, and most pointed to reducing the number of years students can receive SU so that it matches the amount of time it should take to complete their programme. Currently students can receive an extra year of SU.
The government is also looking at cutting funding for those students who switch back and forth between courses and schools in order to extend their SU benefits. Other proposals include limiting SU payments to the school year, instead of year round, as under the current system, and differentiating SU amounts based on study programmes.
Although a poll released last week indicated that the majority of Danes are against making cuts to the SU programme, sources in the Education Ministry told Politiken newspaper that “nothing was sacred” when it comes to trimming SU’s 17 billion kroner annual price tag in order to kick two billion kroner back into state coffers each year.
A spokesperson for the opposition Dansk Folkeparti (DF) said the government was on the wrong track.
“It makes no sense just to kick students out of school,” Jens Henrik Thulesen Dahl, a DF spokesperson, told Politiken newspaper. “The government would do better to examine the system and culture of higher education.”
The idea is to save money by getting students through school more quickly, but Jacob Ruggaard, the head of student union Danske Studerende Fællesråd, thinks any cuts in SU would be bad.
“Trimming the extra year of study would be counter-productive,” Ruggaard told Politiken. “It would force students who are already behind to work even harder.”
Ruggard said students are already moving through the system faster than in years past.
The education minister, Morten Østergaard (Radikale), declined to comment on any possible changes in SU, the cost of which has nearly doubled in ten years.
The increase is due in large part to a growing number of students choosing to go on to higher education.
Lars Andersen, the head of AE, a left-leaning think-tank, said the increase should be welcomed by decision makers.
“It is a good sign because it shows that more people are trying to educate themselves,” Andersen told Politiken. “It costs more in SU, but higher education pays for itself in the long run.”
Business leaders, however, argued that the money could be spent more effectively, particulalry at a time when most other areas are facing cuts.
“Costs are going to continue to rise until 2020, where we expect 10,000 more in higher education,” Jannik Schack Linnemann, education policy manager for chamber of commerce Dansk Erhverv, told Politiken. “SU needs to be adjusted to eliminate wasted years and payments to those students who still live at home.”