The Student Union of Tampere University demands the Finnish Government to invest in students. The Government will meet in April to review the framework of general government finances for 2022–2025. In practice, the coronavirus period has taken students’ well-being and livelihood to an all-time low, and this cannot be fixed with any comforting messages but with real investments in education and well-being. That is why we students are now demanding additional resources for student financial aid, mental health services and university funding.
Students’ poor means of livelihood take resources away from studies, cause stress, and may lead to studies being delayed or even interrupted. The delays in course completion caused by the coronavirus crisis put students in a difficult position when the financial aid months end before completing the degree. Concerns about funding the costs of living during our studies cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for us students, and that is why we demand the spending limit discussion to increase the number of financial aid moths available in study grants.
“48 financial aid months leaves only three months of leeway after five academic years. The cancellation of even one course due to the coronavirus may have delayed the graduation by six months. The end of the financial aid support months for the bachelor’s degree causes unnecessary stress in the middle of the journey, if otherwise enough studies have been completed but some course is missing for reasons beyond one’s control,” says Emmi Juolahti, TREY’s board member.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has estimated the total cost of mental health disorders to Finland to be 11 billion per year already before the coronavirus crisis. Thus, in addition to the individual’s mental suffering, mental health problems cut deeply into the Finnish economy. In response to this problem, we at the Student Union of Tampere University demand that the Government provide sufficient resources for the implementation of immediate access to therapy. The Mental Health Partnership Finland has estimated that the implementation of the immediate access to therapy would cost €35 million, which is a small investment compared to the costs brought by the mental health crisis.
“Students’ mental health symptoms have been on the rise throughout the 21st century. Now is the time to intervene and begin to resolve this crisis. That is what the immediate access to therapy aims at,” says Iiris Taubert, chair of the Student Union of Tampere University board.
The level of education in Finland will be raised not only by increasing the number of new students admitted, but by guaranteeing the quality of education with sufficient core funding. In addition to new starting places, new statutory tasks for universities, such as lifelong learning, require permanent additional funding instead of occasional handouts. To ensure the competence of future actors, TREY demands the Government decide to increase annual budget of universities by at least €100 million.
“Public core funding is the strength of the Finnish higher education. Due to the previous educational cuts, universities are chronically underfunded. In the mid-term policy review, it is absolutely necessary to rectify the situation and invest in education,” comments Tuomas Karvonen, TREY’s board’s education affairs organiser.
We students believe that the best way to overcome the coronavirus crisis is to invest in the well-being of students and the quality of education. If the necessary investments in young people and students are not made, there is a real danger that there will no longer be people fit to work in the Finland of the future. That is when many will wonder why the decision-makers did not listen to us students in the spring of 2021.