Studies or Children?

The everyday life of students is not a bed of roses if their income is based solely on student financial aid. Over half of the funds available to students can easily be spent on housing, and the rest should be enough to get food on the table. The options for increasing their income are work or a student loan which will have to be repaid after graduation.

But for the moment, let’s not pity all students, as there is a group of 20,000 students who are not only responsible for themselves. 60 % of all students already live in poverty, and their situation will become even more dire next autumn when cuts to the student financial aid will take place. Student families will see their income reduced through direct cuts to the study grant, changes to the housing supplement (because the study grant is seen as income when evaluating the need for social assistance) and a lower level of social assistance because of the increase to the government guarantee for student loans.

Current students with children face a stalemate. Unlike other students, the opportunities for students with children to increase their hours of work are also non-existent, and taking on additional debt should not be a way to provide for one’s children. The ability to continue in full-time study will be taken away, and graduation will be pushed off to “a better time”. It is untenable to deny this many students the possibility to continue their studies in an efficient way. Neither does this support people to have children during their studies, which is what other Nordic countries are doing. People have to put off their plans to have children until they have graduated, which comes with its own problems. The average graduation age for a Finnish university student is 28 years. When women leave their plans to have children late into their thirties, the risks included in having children, pregnancy and childbirth are increased.

These same problems are faced by those hoping to get a degree later in life who already have one or more children. The understanding is that the changes happening in working life require constant professional development and lifelong learning. Now having children is becoming a closing gate for higher education when it becomes almost impossible in practice to combine studies with having children. The opportunities for personal and professional development should be guaranteed for everyone, and therefore we cannot afford to be in his unequal situation.

SYL, SAMOK and Väestöliitto propose a carer supplement of 100 euros to be added to the student financial aid for students with children, which should not be included when assessing the need for general housing allowance. In its report (SiVM 17/2016 vp) the Education and Culture Committee also proposed that the Government consider a carer supplement, as student families will be put in an extremely vulnerable position after the cuts to student financial aid.

 

Jani Sillanpää

Board Member, SYL

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