Changes to student welfare in august

The following autumn brings significant changes to the financial aid and housing assistance of higher education students. From 1.8.2017 onwards:

The Student Union gathered in this article the most relevant information for our student members.

Students covered under general housing allowance scheme

The housing costs of higher education students in Finland are currently mainly subsidized through the student housing supplement, which is granted to each student personally. From 1.8.2017 onwards, the student housing supplement is replaced by the general housing allowance. Unlike the student housing supplement, the general housing allowance is granted to the entire household. A household generally consists of all persons living in the same apartment, but it is affected by a number of other factors as well, including the relationship status of tenants, rent, municipality, family size and whether the tenants are collectively responsible for paying the rent. You can find out the how much general housing allowance you are eligible for with Kela’s online calculator (currently available only in Finnish).

Kela will automatically terminate the student housing supplements of all students who are moved under general housing allowance. This is why you have to remember to apply for general housing allowance! General housing allowance is available from the beginning of August, but you can apply for it already at the end of May if you have secured a study place and an apartment for the autumn. You can apply for the allowance through Kela’s e-services.

Students living alone:

If you live alone, you might be eligible for a bigger total financial aid from autumn 2017 onwards. This is because general housing allowance takes the amount of rent into consideration. The student housing supplement, which will end this August, is not affected by rent. The monthly maximum amount of the supplement has stayed at 201,60€ since 2005.

Students living in shared housing:

In order for students living in shared housing to each be eligible for their own general housing allowance, each roommate must form their own household. In order for each roommate to be legally considered their own household, they must have separate rent contracts. So if you live in shared housing and you want to receive general housing allowance for yourself, you and your roommates must act in one of the following ways:

  1. Make an agreement with your landlord to have separate rent contracts for each roommate, if you do not already have them. The rent contracts must not include a clause stating that the tenants are collectively responsible for paying rent for the entire home.
  2. Make a new rent contract with your landlord where one of the roommates is designated as the main tenant and the rest of the roommates are designated as sub-tenants.

VOAS makes separate contracts to all roommates in their shared housing by default, but private sector landlords might require the roommates to be collectively responsible for paying the rent. In such cases the rent contract includes a clause stating that the tenants are collectively responsible for paying rent for the entire home, which means that Kela considers the roommates to belong to the same household. This can be avoided by making a rent contract where one of the roommates is the main tenant and the rest of the roommates are sub-tenants, which makes things easier for the landlord.

Married or Cohabiting couples:

When students are moved to the general housing allowance scheme, many student couples may end up losing their housing support entirely. This is because general housing allowance is affected by the income of all persons who belong in the household. If you live together with your spouse or cohabiting partner, you may apply for general housing allowance for the household you form together. If, for example, you are a student and your spouse or cohabiting partner works full time, their income might be so high that your household is not eligible for general household allowance. You can check this with Kela’s online calculator (currently only available in Finnish).

NOTE! Since the introduction of equal marriage law in Finland in 1.3.2017, persons of the same sex living in the same household are considered cohabiting partners! However, if you live in shared housing where there are more than two tenants or sub-tenants, Kela does not consider any of the tenants or sub-tenants to be cohabiting partners.

Student financial aid and student loan government guarantee

The study grants paid to higher education students will be adjusted so that university students’ monthly study grant will be reduced by up to 86 euros, depending on when they started their studies.

The amounts of government guaranteed student loans will be raised from 400€/month to 650€/month. According to Kela’s calculations the total monthly student financial aid — which consists of the study grant, the student loan and the general housing allowance — will be 1175–1305 €/month from 1.8.2017 onwards, depending on the municipality, whereas currently that same figure is 850–940 €/month. Additionally, starting with autumn term 2017 a payment default entry will no longer prevent students from qualifying for a government loan guarantee. In short, students will receive more financial aid, but a larger portion of it will be based on loans.

Maximum aid period for new students shortened

The maximum aid period for new students will be shortened by 2 months. Persons who start their first higher education studies in autumn term 2017 or later than that are considered new students.

The maximum period of time for which financial aid is available for higher education is shortened to 54 months for students who already have earned one degree and who begin a new course of higher education study in or after autumn term 2017.

For more information, see the Kela article on changes to student financial aid.