A report on the reform of the students’ financial aid commissioned by the Government was published last week. The country is looking at cuts to education worth nearly 600 million euro. The Government of Finland has decided on historical cutbacks to the student financial aid, for a total of 150 million euro. The amount represents 20% of the entire budget for the financial aid for students in higher education.
The amount of social security for students is to be cut by close to 100 euro per month, so students will receive approximately 250 euros a month instead of roughly 340 they now receive. The number of ECTS required for one month of support are raised as well. Additionally, the study loan compensation currently in place is to be reduced. All of this is done simultaneously with increasing student loans, so that students, when they graduate may face a debt burden of up to 30,000 euro.
“From no other population group could the Government cut the group’s livelihood by 25%. Calling this an act that increases societal justice, like some politicians from the government coalition have, is a travesty”, states Fernando Galan, the Chairperson of ESU. “We need everyone on board, not only those who were lucky enough to be born into families that can financially support their children through studies.”
The cost of living in Finland is high. For instance, in Helsinki where the cheapest student dorms start from 200 euro a month, the student financial aid is nowhere near sufficient. According to Eurostudent, 57 % of Finnish students work alongside their studies to support themselves. 92 % of those who work, do so to fund their living expenses. In comparison to the rest of Europe, relatively many – approximately one fifth of Finnish higher education students – have young children. For those students, the cuts will be even more problematic.
The success of the Finnish society was built on extending education to all capable individuals regardless of their background. The results have been astounding. Education has been paramount for Finland to rise up from a poor nation to one of the wealthiest in Europe over the past decades. This success story is now under threat.
In Paris last year, the education ministers reaffirmed their commitment and belief in education as a vehicle for providing equal opportunities for all, social equality, justice, solidarity and building inclusive societies through education. “Now is the time to see whether those commitments are taken seriously”, Galan emphasizes. “It is simply unacceptable that young people are made to bear such a disproportionate burden at times of economic uncertainty and ever-rising youth unemployment.”