The recurrent weakening of students’ position is short-sighted politics – enough is enough!

There are dark clouds on the horizon for students after the Finnish Government’s spring session on spending limits. The decision to deny general housing allowance from students and transfer us back to the housing supplement to student financial aid is shocking.

The decision states that the maximum housing supplement is approximately 260 euros per month. In Tampere, for example, the change means a loss of income of more than 50 euros per month. With the study grant, the monthly income of a student in Tampere would therefore be a maximum of about 540 euros. I can promise you that only a few will be able to survive with this amount. The availability of affordable housing will inevitably run out and the cost of living has been rising dramatically – and the situation is not made easier by raising the general value added tax rate to 25,5%.

A student is left with two choices: just go into debt or work. Deep indebtedness can have long-term effects well into the student’s future even after graduation. In addition, it has a deterrent effect on young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds to whom higher education may no longer appear as an economically viable option.

The most important job for a student should be studying. However, the time spent on studies has decreased and the time spent on work has increased. Decreases in income will undoubtedly increase students’ willingness to work, but at the same time graduation times will stretch and learning outcomes will decline. Forcing students into debt and work is short-sighted politics, in addition to which students are still under enormous pressure to graduate within the target time.

This is not just a simple tightening of the purse strings and a euro-denominated weakening either. A reduction in the general health care treatment time guarantee from 14 days to three months and an increase in the initial deductible of medical reimbursements by 20 euros will certainly also reduce students’ access to care and the ability to take care of themselves. Income worries, long waiting lists for treatment, and uncertainty about the future amidst the world’s crises tend to add to the despair of one’s own situation. Students are supposed to be the workforce of the future, but the mental health crisis is eating away at their work ability already during their studies.

The Finnish Government aims to increase the number of people with higher education to 50% of the age group. However, higher education appears to be an increasingly less attractive option. For Finland’s growth, it would be especially important that we have a large and high-quality group of higher education institutions secured in the future as well. Regrettably, the Government’s actions are now at great odds with the objectives.

I understand that the economy of our country needs everyone to contribute to the debt burden. However, students have already done their part, both financially and even at the expense of their own mental health. Enough is enough!

– TREY’s Chair Noora Hakulinen

A part of Noora's blog post: "Students have already done their part in terms of debt burden. Enough is enough!"
Photograph by Arttu Timonen