Give us a future
Parties are currently trying to produce a government programme at the House of the Estates, with student heads on the block once again. For some inexplicable reason, cuts to students’ subsistence have been discussed in the negotiations. This would be a completely wrong decision that will only make the mental health crisis even deeper and more difficult to solve than it already is.
The Ministry of Finance has proposed decreasing the total number of months of student aid, tightening the requirements for receiving the student loan compensation and implementing tuition fees for years spent studying after exceeeding the target time.
Students already have significant problems juggling the fragments making up their income. Students can generally receive general housing allowance, student aid, student loans and earned income. We are extremely exhausted with the continual moves to make students’ situation worse, such as tightening the conditions for graduation and subsistence during studies. We are still paying a high price for the cuts to education and the study grant made by Sipilä’s government.
Students experience strain due to having to work alongside their studies, stress out over their study progress and need to constantly worry about the sufficiency of their income and resources. All of this feeds the mental health crisis. Burning students out is by no means a sustainable direction for Finland. If the cuts are realised, the ticking time bomb of our time – the mental health crisis – will start ticking even faster than now.
Students already have to make impossible choices in their everyday life, choosing between buying food, paying rent and getting medication. It is inconceivable that further cuts are even suggested in this situation. The solution being proposed with a straight face to students who are already at the limits of their resources is to just study faster and work more. We no longer have the strength to do this.
Months of student aid running out during studies can be an insurmountable problem. When the months of aid run out, students would need to continue their studies while also working full time. This may result in them having to suspend their studies without ever graduating. This is not good for the individual or for society.
Thankfully, I have a solution for the negotiators at the House of the Estates! Society should support students and make it possible for them to study full time. With this totally unprecedented and revolutionary proposal, we can get Finland back on the right track. However, by tightening the conditions for studying, decreasing the number of months of student aid and possibly even introducing tuition fees, we will only reinforce the inheritance of education, making higher education only possible for people who are well off financially.
It is possible to improve students’ wellbeing and mental health by simply ensuring that their income is sufficient. If the study grant covered basic living costs and students could focus on their studies without having to constantly fret about subsistence, graduating in target time would also be a more realistic goal. Having the months of student aid cover the entire duration of studies would give students the opportunity to advance their studies while also looking after their work ability.
According to Yle, only 30 per cent of university students graduate in target time. If we want to speed up graduation, we must first ensure that students have sufficient resources. There are several studies linking meagre subsistence to mental health challenges, such as this report by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.
Students must be allowed to work in peace instead of having their studying conditions continually tightened. Well-educated and healthy young people are the lifeblood of our welfare state – our future is built upon them. For this reason, taking care of the wellbeing of us students is of utmost importance for the future of all of Finland.
If we do not take action against the illfare of students now, the human and financial costs will be unsustainable.
Member of the Board in charge of subsistence