Every student is broke every once in a while. Maybe DUO makes a mistake, your boss doesn’t pay you on time, or because you’ve spent a bit more than you should. Borrowing grocery money from your best friend is a hassle, but not insurmountable. However, if you don’t pay your tuition fees, you might be in more trouble.
Take Rebecca Daunt for example: she’s from the United Kingdom and studies journalism in Groningen. She had to go to hospital for an operation, which meant she couldn’t go to her classes. That was unpleasant in and of itself, but then she got an email: The university hadn’t been able to collect tuition fees from her account, and now they asked her to transfer the money immediately.
Rebecca used to pay her tuition fees from her British bank account, but she had recently opened a Dutch bank account and changed it in Studielink. Unfortunately, it took a while before that change was processed, and so the collection was cancelled, the RUG didn’t get its money, and her RUG account was blocked.
Because of her operation, her hands were tied. Then she got a second email: a payment reminder. She had to transfer the amount within the next seven days. ‘I didn’t think it was that urgent, so I took it easy. But when I wanted to log into my account, it was already blocked.’
Stress! When your account is blocked, you can’t log into your RUG email or Nestor, and you can’t register for exams. ‘I was unable to finish an assignment. My lecturer was very flexible, fortunately’, Rebecca says. ‘I had several deadlines the week after. If I’d been locked out then, I would have had much bigger problems.’
The reminders the RUG sends do mention that your RUG account will be blocked, but when that will happen is not as clear. According to Karina Idema, of the Central Student Information, there are ten days between the moment the payment fails and a student’s account is blocked.
‘Contacting the people in charge of this is really difficult’, says Rebecca. The email provides a link, but it’s unclear who to call. The link, when clicked, leads to Information Services. Upon closer inspection, you’ll find links to the Central Student Administration, who in turn provide a phone number to call.
Rebecca managed to transfer the money after her account had been blocked, and her access to the RUG facilities was reinstated the next day. Paying owed fees can be done in various ways: in cash, by bank transfer, or even with the Tikkie app.
Rebecca wonders why the system is so strict. ‘It lends credence to the idea that the RUG is more focused on earnings than students.’
Is the system too strict? Idema understands that people might think so. ‘But we do know that a large majority of the students pay up when their account is blocked. Besides, there are ten days between the cancellation of the payment and their account being blocked. We see approximately five hundred cancellations every time we try collect the fees, and the moment we block people’s accounts, at least three hundred get paid’, Idema explains.
The blockade effectively works as an incentive. But some of the five hundred students who don’t pay their monthly tuition fees fail to do so through no fault of their own. And they can’t pay within those ten days. In these cases, the various payment options and reminder emails are no use.
Idema says the CSA is trying to figure something out for students like this. ‘But if students can’t prove they can’t pay through no fault of their own, we can’t help them either. They’ll have to pay their tuition eventually.’
But before students can deliver the evidence that it wasn’t their fault they couldn’t pay, the blocking process has already started. So there’s no way to avoid the situation.
This is what happened to law student Larissa Jellema. She knew beforehand that she wouldn’t be able to pay, through no fault of her own. DUO had made a calculation error which meant she wouldn’t be receiving her money that month.
When she called the Central Student Administration, they told her the same rules applied to her. ‘I was going to get the money in two weeks, so they knew when I would be able to transfer the fee. And yet they couldn’t make an exception.’
The procedure for paying in instalments
You get a reminder email before the collection date: ‘Collection of tuition fees’. This email includes the date of collection, a reminder to make sure there’s enough money in your bank account, and a warning that failure to pay will result in your RUG account being blocked.
If the collection fails, you receive another email: ‘Collection of tuition fees failed’. This email asks you to immediately pay the fees.
You’ll receive a payment reminder the next day, with the request to transfer the money within seven days.
By that time, your account has already been blocked. You can’t log into your RUG email, access Nestor, use the library, register for or take exams.
If you don’t pay in those seven days, you’ll get a notice of default. You then have fifteen days to pay before the RUG brings in a collection agency
A bailiff! If you still haven’t paid after the notice of default deadline has ended, a bailiff will be sent your way, and you have to pay for their costs.
The RUG explains the process here.