Money: it's great to have but hard to keep. In all seriousness, though you may not be entirely broke, as a student you may be feeling some financial pressure. It is a known fact that university can be expensive, from the tuition fee to the textbooks. However, that is why the concept of financial aid was created. In the case of financial aid in the Netherlands, it can sometimes be a bit tricky to find the right information. Most of the government websites are in Dutch and the information can seem quite confusing, abstract and incomplete. Not to mention that most study advisors will direct you towards resources that aren't that helpful. Luckily College Life is here to bring you this ultimate guide to financial aid in the Netherlands! Whether you are looking to apply for student finance, find a scholarship, or learn more about alternatives to finding funding, this is the place to start.
To read your way through the guide, pick the category you are most interested in or simply follow along the whole way through!
Student Finance Overview
When we talk about student finance (also known as student financing) we are talking about funding your studies and (possibly) other costs of living. Most student finance is generally targeted at low-income students. In general, there are three ways in which you can finance your studies: financial aid, scholarships, and self-funding. Financial aid in the Netherlands is known as studiefinanciering or student finance.
Student finance is a scheme set up by the Dutch government to fund tuition fees and other living costs of eligible students. Then, there are scholarships, which function in a similar way, but are based on an awards system. Finally, there are other ways of ensuring you can afford your studies, including applying for a private loan, getting a job or applying for allowances.
Public financial aid
The Dutch government provides public aid. This covers student finance and benefits like healthcare and housing allowances.
Student finance, or studiefinanciering in Dutch, is a 3-part financial aid package intended to help students with paying their tuition fees and student life. There are requirements you need to meet, with some students being eligible for all 3 components and some maybe one or two. The first is the loan or the tuition fee loan; the second is the supplementary grant, and the third is the student travel product.
Allowances are sums of money gifted to low-income citizens, or students, to aid with some of their living costs. Healthcare allowance is a monthly sum provided by the Dutch government to help cover your monthly health insurance bill. Similarly, the housing allowance is a sum to help with your monthly rent. As with student finance, there are specific requirements you need to meet.
Aside from student finance, there is the option of applying for a scholarship. A scholarship is like financial aid but it comes in the form of an award. Scholarships are usually given out by universities or other donors or institutions. Scholarships are also awarded based on specific criteria, like having certain grades or possessing certain qualities. Unlike a loan, scholarship money does not have to be paid back!
How can I get a scholarship?
There are numerous scholarships targeted at students wishing to study in the Netherlands. Some scholarships are for specific nationalities, types of degrees, or areas of study.
It is best to start doing your research as early as possible. Check your university website if they offer any scholarships or use Nuffic's scholarship search tool. The more time you spend on research, the more options you will find. If you wait till the last minute, most scholarships might already be closed. Researching the criteria is important as well. There will be specific scholarships you are eligible for and those for which you are not.
All scholarships have an application deadline. They additionally have their own specific regulations for sending in your application. So, when you apply, make sure to read the instructions carefully. You need to make sure to send the institution all the necessary documents. Don't forget to think about the appearance of your application; no spelling mistakes, unnecessary information, and strange formatting!
If you don't qualify for public aid or scholarships, you can always look for funding independently. This means that you can search for a part-time job to combine with your studies or you can look into private loans.
This type of financing comes usually from private companies that can offer you a loan in exchange for an interest rate. Since EU/EEA students are eligible for collegegeldkrediet (the tuition fee loan), which currently has a very attractive interest rate determined based on the duration and amount of your loan, private aid is usually for non-EU/EEA citizens.
If you are interested in a private loan, contact your university to request more information on partnerships with institutions from your country that provide such loans.
Costs of living and student budgeting
Whether you're funding yourself or receiving aid, it's always important to be aware of what expenses you'll have to deal with and how to prepare yourself for them. Learning how to budget is an important first step.
Costs of living
Aside from your tuition fees, it is important to be aware of your other living costs. Living costs can cover a broad spectrum of things, from rent to food to textbooks. Your living costs could include:
- Your tuition. Depending on your nationality you might have to pay the statutory fee or the institutional fee. On average, EU/EEA students pay a little over €2000 a year for tuition fees, whereas non-EU/EEA nationals pay close to or more than €8000 a year.
- Monthly rent. Depending on where in the Netherlands you are living, the housing market can be quite expensive. Are you on the hunt for somewhere to live? Check out our Complete Guide to Student Housing, where we give you advice on finding a place to live!
- Monthly utilities: Find out more about utilities in our Utilities Guide and read our tips on how to save money on your utilities!
- Your food: Everyone needs to eat, right? Most likely, you will be doing a weekly shop for groceries. Some supermarkets are more expensive than others. Visit places like Aldi, Plus or Albert Heijn.
- Textbooks and other school supplies: Textbooks can often be very expensive, so buying them second-hand is a smart way to save some money. You can find textbooks in the Facebook groups of your study program.
- Going out or eating out: Just because you are on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t experience student life to the fullest! You can always pre-drink at home with friends, or choose cheaper alternatives when eating at restaurants. At most budget-friendly (and budget journal friendly) places, a meal will cost you somewhere between €10-20.
- Transport like trams, trains or buses, for example.
- Extras like clothes or shopping. This might be a necessity for you or it might be something you spend your extra cash on.
All in all, if you are living in the Netherlands, you are looking at total living costs of around €1000 or more per month. That's less than (or at least almost equal to) living costs in countries like England, for example.
You could consider helping yourself out in the finance department by sticking to a budget. Sounds fun, right? It’s not as difficult as you might think. Having a budget simply means you are more aware of how much you are spending and what you are spending your money on. You can set yourself a monthly or weekly limit in regards to the amount of money that you allow yourself to use, delegating a certain sum to certain things. For example, you could set aside a certain amount for your rent, and then for food or going out. We came up with a fool-proof formula for keeping a budget, so take a look if you are unsure of how to budget yourself!
Take advantage of the cultural discounts of the country you live in. For example, in the Netherlands, there are plenty of benefits you can make good use of as a student. Whether you want to visit the best museums in the Netherlands or go and have a taste of Dutch cuisine, here are a few of our best picks for cultural discounts:
- CJP Card: The CJP card offers discounts on cultural events including everything from festivals and concerts to theatre and museums. This discount card is aimed at people and students under 30 to promote Dutch and international culture. In some museums, for example, you can get up to a 50% discount. You can even get discounts on clothes, travel, and insurance. You can choose different types of CJP cards: for instance, you can get a 1-year pass for €17.50 with discounts for over 1000 locations across the Netherlands as well as other great offers.
- City passes: There is also the possibility to get city passes. The Rotterdampas, for instance, costs around €12.50 with a student card. With this pass, you can get free access, in Rotterdam, to a lot of museums (like Museum Boijmans van Beuningen or Kunsthal), to go the movies for free three times, free access to attractions like the Euromast, lasertag, and even free ice cream (free ice cream is the real selling point here). You can also get access to some museums in The Hague or Delft. In total, you can get free or discounted access to over 750 activities! It lasts for one calendar year but from a set month to month date.
- Cineville: With the Cineville card, for only €19.95 a month, you can watch unlimited films in over 40 art house cinemas throughout the Netherlands. This pass was created to unite the community of independent cinemas so it's for the all film-aficionados out there. You can also get access to premieres, classic screenings, and movie festivals! This card lasts for 4 months at a minimum and you can buy it online or in select cinema locations.
- Pathé Unlimited: Pathé is one of the biggest cinemas in the Netherlands with locations in every major city. With the Pathé Unlimited card, you can get ultimate access to all theatres around the Netherlands. A pass for €19 a month gives you unlimited access to regular film screenings as well as a 10% discounts on links and snacks. The Pathé Unlimited Gold card, on the other hand, gives you unlimited access to 3D and IMAX films and a 25% discount on snacks and drinks. This pass is €26 per month. So, if you are more of a blockbuster, thriller, type of person, this is for you.
- Restaurant Kaart: With the Restaurant Kaart, for only €6.99 per month, you can get a decent discount for eating out. For instance, you can enjoy 50% off on your total food bill if you order à la carte. Drinks, however, are not included. There are over 600 restaurants that are partnered with this deal in lots of cities around the Netherlands. If you find out that you don't really have much use for this card, you can cancel it anytime you want.
- ISIC Card: The International Student Identity Card, or ISIC, gives you benefits and cultural discounts as an international student studying in the Netherlands. Well, you can actually use it in over 150.000 locations across 133 countries… but who’s keeping track? You must be studying full-time in the Netherlands. You can get discounts on tours, restaurants, tickets, museums, and even online shopping. There are also specific discounts depending on where you live. You can search on the ISIC website to see whether there are any local discounts for students. Prices start at €12 for an electronic ID, or €15 if you want a physical card included. It is valid for one calendar year.
- Your own student card: And finally, an oldie but goodie: your own student card! You can use your student card or the student ID that you have obtained from your university, to get cultural discounts. If you want to buy a ticket to a museum or attraction, many offer a slight discount for students. This is not the case everywhere and the discounts can range in price. But hey, a discount is a discount, right? Just remember to keep your student ID with you at all times so that you can whip it out on every occasion possible!
EU/EEA students have a lot of options when it comes to funding their studies. Firstly, you can apply for studiefinanciering (student finance) which can cover your tuition fees, among other things. Then, there is the option of applying for a scholarship. Working during your studies can come in handy as a way to fund your studies.
Studiefinanciering or Student Finance
Student finance, or studiefinanciering is financing offered by the Dutch Ministry of Education and Culture - DUO. It consists of three components: a loan, a supplementary grant, and a student travel product. A disclaimer before we explain anything else: not everyone will be eligible for all 3 components. It depends on the requirements you meet. Firstly, there are some general requirements you need to meet in order to be eligible for studiefinanciering:
- You must be a Dutch national or have the same rights as a Dutch national (depends on resident permit/nationality). For example, if you’ve been living in the Netherlands for at least 5 consecutive years or you work in the Netherlands at least 56hrs a month.
- Or, you must be an EU/EEA or Swiss national.
- You must be registered in a full-time or dual degree program in a higher vocational education program (HBO) or university. If you're studying in a secondary vocational education program (MBO), more conditions apply.
- Must be under 30
- You must be registered with a city hall. When you register, you get a BSN, and a DigiD.
- Finally, you must have a Dutch bank account.
If you meet all the conditions for student finance but happen to be older than 30, head over to Chapter 4 to learn more about student loan for adults!
Let's dive into the individual components:
Tuition Fee Loan
To be able to apply for the tuition fee loan, you must be an EU/EEA or Swiss national. The amount you receive depends on a number of factors, including your income if you have one, and your expenses.
For the regular loan, you must be a resident of the EU/EEA or Switzerland and have lived in the Netherlands for at least the last 5 years or be working for at least 56 hours per month. Remember that you must pay back your loan(s) after you graduate.
As working student you can be eligible for the student loan. On College Life Work can find positions that can help you meet the 56 hour requirement. For example, if you apply to become a driver for Takeaway.com, you will be have to opportunity to be eligible for the regular loan.
The supplementary grant is an additional grant that is converted into a gift (i.e. you do not have to pay back), if you graduate within 10 years. You are eligible for this grant if you meet the requirements for the student loan and your parent's combined income is lower than the threshold fixed by DUO. DUO has a calculator that you can use to see if you fall within the range of the supplementary grant.
Remember that if you have not been living in the Netherlands for the past 5 years (at least) as per the requirements of the student loan, to receive both the loan and supplementary grant you must be employed by a Dutch employer for at least 56 hours a month.
Student travel product
The student travel product provides a discount for travelling with Dutch public transport. You can choose to travel for free on weekdays or weekends. To be eligible for this, you need to meet the requirements.
Unfortunately, you can only apply for Dutch student finance if you are Dutch or an EU/EEA national or Swiss. However, there are other ways to fund your studies like scholarships.
How can I apply for studiefinanciering?
You can apply online with necessary documents, as well as your BSN and DigiD, through DUO's website. Log in to DUO.nl using your DigiD. If you don't, or can't, do this online, you can download the forms on DUO (under login problems) and submit the documents in person.
Scholarships for EU/EEA students
Scholarships are based on merit, and usually, the receiver (or receivers) of the scholarship is chosen from a pool of applicants. There are multiple types of scholarships, ranging from university-specific or course-specific to nationality-specific ones.
One of the most popular scholarships is Erasmus +, which is a scholarship intended for students who wish to study abroad or do a traineeship within the EU.
Erasmus Mundus is a scholarship for Master's students from around the world. You have to study in two of the recognized counties for a certain period of time.
There's also the NN Future Matters scholarship. This scholarship is intended for certain students from specific countries, such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Bulgaria or the Czech Republic, wishing to study a Master's degree in the Netherlands. The total grant is €5,000. You must be studying either finance, risk management or economics at a participating Dutch research university and must be a first-generation university student. Participating institutions have their own specific requirements The total grant is €5,000 for students from EU/EEA countries. Students from non-EU/EEA countries can receive up to €20,000. This is because they pay a much higher tuition fee than Dutch and EU citizens.
Your university may have a scholarship or two that you are eligible to apply for. Just search their website for their scholarship page or contact them directly.
Check out our post on scholarships for EU students for more detail!
On the other hand, if you are not an EU/EEA, Swiss or Dutch national (or have similar rights), unfortunately, you cannot apply for studiefinanciering. However, there are other ways to receive financial aid in order to make your studies much more affordable!
Scholarships for non-EU/EEA students
There are plenty of scholarships for non-EU/EEA students. Scholarships are based on a merit system. Essentially, they are awarded to one or a group of candidates from a pool of applicants. Depending on the scholarship, you may have your tuition fees covered, or receive a grant to be spent however you like.
The Orange Tulip Scholarship Programme is a scholarship open to non-EU students. This scholarship is for students coming from Neso countries, like Brazil or Vietnam, among others. The full list of eligible countries and more information can be found on the Study in Holland website.
The MENA Scholarship Programme is intended for students coming from the Middle East and North Africa. This is a great scholarship if you want to take short courses in the Netherlands in fields such as the arts or economics.
Then, there is the Holland Scholarship, designed for non-EEA students who want to study a Bachelor or Master's degree in the Netherlands. You receive a grant of €5,000, and lots of different academic institutions all over the Netherlands are partnered with the program. You can look for more information here, or on the university website of your choice.
There are more scholarships for international students, among the many we have mentioned here. You can read all about non-EU scholarships, or head to the Nuffic scholarship search tool for a more general overview of scholarships in the Netherlands.
So, you’re between 30 and 55 years old and want to go (back) to school. However, funds to explore new endeavours like going back to school may not be readily available. If you want something to cover the costs of accredited programs in the Netherlands, the DUO Lifelong Learning Credit may be an attractive option for you. On top of that, it has a tolerant repayment plan! In this chapter, we’ll go over exactly who qualifies for the Lifelong Learning Credit and the logistics of this loan.
Eligibility for DUO's Student Loan for Adults
You qualify for the Lifelong Learning Credit if:
- You’re either a full-time, dual, or part-time student at university or higher vocational education (HBO) or are a full-time BOL-student at secondary vocational education (MBO),
- Your study program is officially recognized in The Netherlands.
- You’re from an EEA country or Switzerland OR you have a residence permit type II, III, IV or V. If you have a residence permit type I, check on the DUO website to see if you’re able to receive credit.
- You’re no longer eligible to receive regular student finance or the tuition fee loan.
- You’re younger than 55 when the lifelong learning credit takes effect.
- Your tuition costs aren’t being paid or reimbursed in full by any other entity (an employer or parents, for example). If someone else is currently paying, you can apply for the Lifelong Learning Credit to cover the remainder of your tuition fees.
- You may even be eligible if you are younger than 30. You’re in luck if you’re following a part-time or second study program at HBO or University or if you have an HBO bachelors or university masters.
Student Loan for Adults Amount
You may only borrow the exact amount of the tuition fee. If the amount is of €2,083 (HBO and university) or €1,168 (MBO), you will need to provide a statement from your educational institution showing all tuition costs. Lastly, the maximum loan amount is €10,030.20 per year for an HBO or university, and €5,685 for an MBO.
Payment for the Lifelong Learning Credit
Essentially, the Lifelong Learning Credit is available for the full length of your program. However, one extra year can be allotted if you are following a part-time course.
Second, you receive the payment from the Lifelong Learning Credit at the end of every month. Each month you receive 1/12th of your yearly loan.
You need to start repaying the loan the year after you are no longer eligible for the Lifelong Learning Credit. From there on, you have 15 years to pay it off plus interest (interest rates change annually).
How much you pay per month will be determined by your income. Part of your yearly income is excluded from this calculation. Each month you will pay 1% of that remaining income. Any remaining debt will be cancelled after 15 years.
Still having trouble? Although our guide and the requirements provided by the Dutch government can be very useful, they can’t account for every single situation. Life can get complicated and when it comes to getting the financial support that you need it can add a whole dimension of stress to an already dire situation.
If you are having any issues applying for these allowances and have already reached out to the Dutch authorities for help without any luck, go to College Life's Legal Aid section. We’ve partnered with the reputable Rotterdam law firm to help our readers with any complications that might arise when applying for these benefits. If you’re really stuck, give them a call. They’ll be able to help you out at a price you can afford!