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EU students ordered to pay back millions in SU study grants

Over 900 EU students have illegally received study grants from the government. Now they must pay it back

Students from the European Union owe Denmark over DKK 8.2 million in illegally-obtained study grants, according to the Danish Agency for Higher Education.

“I still owe around DKK 25,000”, says Ieva Spinga to the University Post. She graduated from Sport and Event Management at the University College of Northern Denmark. “I expected that I would have to return part of my grant since I stopped working last summer,” she says.

European Union citizens have the right to receive the Danish study grant ‘SU’ (‘Statens Uddannelsesstøtte’ in Danish) provided they meet certain conditions. The Danish authorities check regularly if the conditions are met. If they are not, students must return their SU.

No job, no subsidy

In early 2013, a ruling by the European Court of Justice forced Danish authorities to support students from the European Union with funds from the SU scheme. Over 4,700 EU citizens received SU in 2014, according to the Danish newspaper ‘Information’.

Non-Danish EU nationals are eligible for SU if they obtain ‘equal status’. For EU citizens, this means working approximately 10-12 hours per week for a Danish employer.

If the EU student stops working in Denmark, they lose their right to SU. The Danish Agency for Higher Education checks income data from tax reports annually, which means students who no longer work the requisite hours can receive SU illegally for months before they are found out.

Tough repayment plans

“When I stopped studying, I simply received a letter from the authorities informing me about the situation,” says Ieva. “They offered to let me pay immediately or settle the debt over the next three years, and I chose the latter”.

If a student must repay a portion of their grant, a 7 per cent fee is added to the sum the student owes. When students do not return the subsidy immediately, the case is handed over to a government state administration of loans office.

The office will then charge the Danish National Bank’s interest rate plus an additional 8 per cent per year. However, the debt has to be paid within three years and monthly bills are sent accordingly.

Read SU grant: Can you get it?

Have you been ordered to pay back Danish study grants? Let us know your story on or comment below.

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