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Students caught up in SU policy mess

Grants are being called back not only if EU students haven't worked enough, but if they have worked too much

Are the rules explained clearly enough? Apparently not. Older study grant (SU) eligibility rules for European students seem to be clashing with the new regulations, leaving some students with thousands of kroner in study grant debts.

Previously, EU citizens were required to work Denmark full time (at least 30 hours) for two years in order to be eligible for the the Danish study grant SU (Statens Uddannelsesstøtte). In 2013, these rules changed, and an EU court ruling made European students eligible for SU provided they are working 10-12 hours per week. The result? Many EU students are stuck paying back millions in SU study grants.

Read more: SU for international students – how to apply

”I applied for SU two years ago. Back then, in order to be treated as an equal citizen, you had to work two years for about 30 hours per week,” says master student Jakub Kowalczyk, who now has to pay back SU for an entire year of 2012, where he was working full time to prepare for SU eligibility, following the old rules.

New laws overrule old ones

When applying for SU in September 2012, Kowalczyk asked if he could also receive the grant for the previous months, since he had been working so much. The response from the SU office was positive, and he got the grant for the whole year. But, according to the new laws implemented in spring 2013, Kowalczyk had worked too many hours and now has to return all of this money back.

”I recieved SU in September 2012 and according to the officials I should have given it all back. Some people blame me for not recognizing that I’m earning too much,” says Kowalczyk.

Another student from Romania, who wished to stay anonymous, was also eligible for SU based on the same requirements: ”I was told that because I had worked for two years prior, I can receive the money,” but after getting fired she was asked to give the money back.

Lack of clarity

Both students complain that the rules regarding SU are not stated clear enough. Moreover, most of the information has been given in Danish.

”It is not like foreign students are trying to cheat the Danish government, God forbid. But we are not introduced to the system well enough,” says the Romanian student, ”if I had been told right away that I’m not entitled to the money, I would have looked for another solution.”

Although Kowalczyk consulted with a lawyer, there is no way he can avoid not paying the money back. ”I have to pay back the loan during my studies or within three years,” he explains. There is also an interest rate of 8 per cent per year on top of that.

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