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Report: Many students live under the poverty line; working slows down studies


The Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY), the Aalto University Student Union (AYY) and the Research Foundation for Studies and Education Otus conducted a survey on the subsistence of the students of the University of Helsinki and Aalto University. The report charted the financial situation and study wellbeing of the basic degree students of the University of Helsinki and Aalto University in autumn 2018. Themes of the survey included student aid, work, general subsistence, housing and students’ wellbeing. Particular interest was given to the effects of the student aid reform and to the students’ move to general housing allowance.

Cuts to student aid affected taking out loans

According to the study, students are a diverse group in terms of subsistence. Around 50% of the students who completed the survey live under the poverty line, with 25% of these having under 850 euros per month at their disposal. The disposable income of students as a whole has increased, but part of that income is loan and the general cost of living in has risen.

Out of those entitled to student loan, 63% had taken out one. The most important reason for taking out a student loan was clearly securing one’s subsistence. The cuts to student aid had affected around one in three students’ need to take out a student loan. Some students also receive financial support from their parents or relatives, but 37% receive no support.

Working slows down studies

The link between sickness and the experience of one’s situation with subsistence is fairly clear based on the results. The students who have a sickness that complicates studying experience a good or fairly good situation with subsistence decidedly less often than those who do not.

According to the report, students prefer working to taking out a loan. 74% of the respondents had worked during the last academic year. Around 70% of those who completed the survey stated that working slowed down their study progress either somewhat or considerably. It would seem that even after the student aid reform working slows down the study progress of a large number of students.

Effects of the move to general housing allowance

Students moved to general housing allowance in August 2017. 47% of those who completed the survey stated that they receive general housing allowance. For some students, this change has probably improved the level of subsistence. However, general housing allowance causes problem situations if the income of other people living in the same household affects the amount of housing allowance. The move to general housing allowance has increased the demand for small apartments in the Capital Region at the cost of shared apartments. The students who completed the survey did not consider shared apartments as financially viable an option as before.

The students who stated that they live with some other adult were asked how the expenses in their household are shared. A significant share of those living with someone else do not live in a shared household – instead, housing costs are shared, and everyone is responsible for their personal expenses. 29% of those living with someone else live in a shared household with both income and expenses largely shared.

The average rent of university students in the Capital Region is 495 euros per month, whereas the median rent is 450 euros. Living in an owner-occupied apartment has become cheaper in comparison to living in a rental apartment, as rents have grown faster than apartment prices, which is bad news from a student perspective. Rapidly increasing rents are a harsh blow to the finances of students living in rental apartments.

The release event of the report is organised at the Think Corner at 2–4 pm on Tuesday 5 February (

Further information:

Hannele Kirveskoski, HYY’s specialist (subsistence)
050 543 9608