Insufficient income exhausts students’ resources
Students have been left to try and manage on their own without sufficient support from society. Worrying over whether you have enough money for rent, food and public transport tickets each month uses up students’ mental resources. Students’ subsistence must be secured. For this reason, we demand an increase of 100 euros to the study grant. Students must be able to study full time on the study grant and housing allowance.
Students finance their studies primarily with student aid and general housing allowance. Student aid consists of a study grant of around 268 euros and a student loan of 650 euros per month. It is not possible to survive on just the study grant, which often makes taking out a loan a necessity. The cuts to the study grant made by Sipilä’s government have considerably increased students’ loan burden. The student loan stock has doubled in five years, while the number of people with student loans has grown sixfold in only three years after the cuts were made. In January 2023, the total amount of student loans taken out was worth 335 million euros.
This kind of obligation to take out loans to cover one’s basic living costs is not required of any other group of people. Students are not always even entitled to basic social assistance, which is a last-resort benefit when you do not have any other income. Even then, students are expected to have taken out their student loan in full when assessing their right to basic social assistance. People living on basic social assistance are often the group of people in the weakest financial situation, but students still are not usually entitled to this last-resort form of social security.
Students often do not have the opportunity to choose between taking out a loan and working – they have to take out the loan in full and still go to work. Combining studies and work exhausts students’ resources in an unreasonable manner. There is not enough time for rest, and students may have to cut back on sleep, physical activity and other healthy habits. Students’ situations in life are extremely diverse – unfortunately, all of us cannot reach superhuman performance levels. The situation is challenging especially for students whose ability to function is reduced due to mental health challenges, learning difficulties, difficulties with concentration, sickness or disability.
We need an increase of at least 100 euros to the study grant during the next parliamentary term. This would make it possible for students to focus on their studies full time and make completing studies easier. Above all, however, secure subsistence would improve student wellbeing. As many as one third of all students suffer from mental health challenges. Increasing the level of the study grant would reduce worries over financing studies and help students cope better.
Finland wants to raise the level of competence among its population by having 50% of each age group complete higher education. We will not achieve this without getting young people from increasingly diverse backgrounds to seek higher education. Increasing the level of the study grant would also support this goal, making higher education studies more accessible.
The next government will be faced with a choice: will it further weaken students’ situation, or will it improve it? When deciding who to vote for, consider what kind of basic building blocks you want Finland’s future to be built on.
Board member in charge of subsistence