Do you want to receive a thousand euros for further education? The new STAP scholarships are extremely popular, but there is something strange about them: You can not yet use them for a full course in state-funded higher education.
On March 1, people were able to apply to UWV for the first time for a STAP grant: a thousand euros to be spent on a course or an education. A total of 32 million euros was expected.
It turned out to be a hit. Within three days, 35,000 applications came in and the jar was empty. Two months later came another round. Same story. Again, the money quickly ran out.
As a starting point, the STAP grants are intended for the employed or unemployed. You can not use them if you are entitled to student aid or if you receive a national pension. You can not get STAP grants for full-time courses in higher education if you are under thirty.
But where are the millions going? The majority of the offer consists of short courses from primarily private providers, who advertise themselves in the round: use the money with us! You can hardly or at all use the grants for full HBO or WO courses. For example, if you want to take a two-year associate degree program at a regular vocational college, you must do so without a STAP grant.
Previously, you could deduct school expenses from your income tax, but no more since this year. The STAP budget has been replaced by this. STAP stands for Stimulating the labor market position. The idea is that money less often ends up with the highly educated and more often with workers or job seekers who need it more.
The plan for these subsidies comes from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. Then came the Ministry of Education, but especially the department of MBO. The Directorate for Higher Education was only informed late.
Usually, says an employee of the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences, umbrella organizations are involved early in such changes. Then they can participate in the discussion about the possible problems they encounter during implementation. Now that conversation came too late.
Take, for example, the problem of students who are already pursuing a university degree and who have so far been able to deduct their expenses. They are no longer allowed to do so, but they are also not allowed to apply for STAP. One of the conditions is that you have not yet started the education. So that group of HBO students falls between two chairs.
There were also problems with the necessary registration documents and the registration of attendance, for which HBO had to change all kinds of processes and systems. In February 2021, the universities used sounded the alarm: There are many bottlenecks, they said. Sometimes the scheme was not even in accordance with the Higher Education Act.
The budget is also not very suitable for longer courses, because at present you can only apply for the money for one year at a time. You may find yourself behind the net in recent years and suddenly having to pay more than you expected. Something will be done about it, but there are no guarantees yet.
The biggest bottleneck is perhaps the STAP register of courses and educations that you can choose from. There are hardly any state-funded HBO courses.
It is true. The STAP education register uses a different, new register for all institutions and educations in the Netherlands (from primary school to university). It is called short RIO, and it has only just come into operation. Government-funded higher education is not yet fully part of the RIO; it will happen later this year, but it’s too late for STAP.
In practice, the vocational colleges that wanted to participate immediately had a month to manually enter everything in the STAP register, but this could not be done. They also did not want to deal with the French battle. Tens of thousands of people can apply for the thousands of euros; you want to give them what they can expect and not end up in benefits.
For years, the vocational colleges have wanted to stimulate ‘lifelong development’ with flexible courses and a better part-time offer. They recently launched an 11-month retraining program for the IT sector along with UWV.
In addition, there are state-funded business universities in the STAP education register, but then with courses or continuing education. These are, for example, Saxion, Christelijke Hogeschool Ede, Windesheim, Hanzehogeschool, Hogeschool Rotterdam, Hogeschool van Amsterdam and Avans, to name a few.
However, when STAP started, there were no general associate programs or bachelor’s programs available. It will be different in the next round, says the Business School Association. Then some applied universities will offer their courses. In recent months, they have adjusted their processes and manually added their offerings to the register, but this proved to be impossible for most universities used.
The private education provider LOI, on the other hand, was already there, with short courses and with HBO bachelor programs such as technical informatics, communication and social work.
Similar bottlenecks apply to universities as to the universities used, but they are less focused on further education and “lifelong learning”. Part-time education, for example, plays only a minor role in academic education. An exception is Open University, which offers many courses for STAP students.
A new round of STAP grants will be launched on 1 July and those interested can apply for one.
The Ministry of Education welcomes the fact that the STAP grant reaches many people and that there is such great enthusiasm for it. “At the same time, we see that the implementation is not yet running as it should,” a spokesman said. “We hope that all programs for which the STAP budget can be used will also be found in the right way in the coming academic year.”
To this end, the ministry has held talks with the Dutch universities, the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences and the MBO Council. “Because people want to learn and want to retrain, we must above all encourage,” the spokesman said.