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Housing Allowance: The Essential Lifeline for Students

The everyday lives of students is already challenging, as their concern for sufficient livelihood affects their daily lives. They have to make choices between hobbies, social life, and, in the worst cases, even between paying rent and eating. The student grant alone is often not enough to cover living expenses without loan or work. However, working, which is often a more attractive option, further delays their studies. Studies should be a student's job.

The government programme announced by Petteri Orpo's administration in mid-June complicates students' livelihood, particularly regarding housing, as the cuts are set to reform Finland's support system. The basic personal liability for general housing allowance is proposed to be increased from the current 42% to 50%. The level of eligible housing costs will also be reduced, and municipal categories will be merged. Is the goal of the reform to target support specifically to those who need it the most?

Forms of co-living for students are being considered, although the program does not specify how. It should be noted that student housing is undergoing changes, and in Vaasa, for example, several shared apartments have been converted into studios due to growing demand. The student support system must reflect current reality. Currently, it is unclear from the government program whether students will be transferred back to the student housing supplement. This should not happen! It would further weaken students' already weak financial position. Keeping students within the scope of general housing allowance must be a reality now and in the future.

The government programme does not address the situation of student financial aid, except for promising to initiate a comprehensive reform of the support. The details of how this will be implemented are not yet clear. However, the programme does outline that the support should enable full-time studies, aim to secure income during the study period, strengthen the incentive elements of student financial aid, and ensure timely graduation. In comparison to other Nordic countries, the development of Finland's student financial aid has been the smallest. This should be taken into account in the comprehensive reform. Graduating on time brings revenue to universities and provides the workforce society needs. It is extremely challenging to achieve this goal if work is necessary to secure one's livelihood while studying.

Sara Güven
Board Member responsible for Campus and Municipal Affairs 2023