Improving student benefits takes courage

The Social Security Committee asked for our opinion on the social security reform and we delivered! There are several aspects of student benefits the Social Security Committee has not yet commented on. These were included in our exceptionally comprehensive and detailed statement on the social security reform.

SYL wants student benefits to be included in the new basic social security benefit to simplify the benefit system and bring the actual value of the benefit to the same level with the basic social security. Social benefits for students are not enough to cover their basic expenses. This is why some 70% of students have to take a student loan, meaning that indebtedness among students has risen at a high rate. Indeed, the average amount of loan by university graduates is already more than EUR 22,000.

In our statement, we also emphasise that student financial aid must be changed to make it a stronger incentive, not a punishment. The terms of eligibility for student financial aid have been tightened and the aid period shortened, so it is accessible to fewer and fewer students. As fewer students are able to get student financial aid, full-time study has been made more difficult. The aid must be enough for the entire duration of studies and enable full-time study.

Student financial aid should no longer be considered aid for study alone, but also as social aid. Securing a livelihood during studies is also uncertain, depending on the number of courses completed, getting a summer job, coping with stress and a variety of other factors. Student financial aid should be a safe form of aid that supports the completion of studies. In order for the system to be more like social security, student financial aid should be made the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

The debate around social benefits for students has been fierce for a long time. Before the government formation talks, there have been rumours of cuts in the housing allowance and student financial aid. Many of these would directly affect students’ livelihoods and potentially complicate the system even more, making it even less functional.

This would be the ideal time to support students and solve problems with the benefits. The Social Security Committee had a proposal for renewing the student financial aid system. This proposal is now being considered in the government formation talks, and we hope the reform will go ahead, but only if the Social Security Committee will be tasked with the implementation and it will be carried out as part of the social security reform.

SYL is hoping the Social Security Committee will carry out a brave and just reform to get the education level rising again, to fix problems with the social security system and to make sure that low-income people are not forgotten.

Read our statement here.

Jenny Kasongo
Board Member, social policy, language policy, organisations and culture

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