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Tuition fees and stipend system increase inequality among students

In a memorandum published by the Ministry of Finance on December 8, it was suggested that higher education funding could be improved through tuition fees. A few days later, Yle reported that the rectors of higher education institutions have considered introducing tuition fees when the opportunity arises. According to the ministry, higher education institutions could use tuition fees to improve the quality of education and fix the lack of funding needed to raise the level of education. According to the same proposal, students could finance tuition fees with a student loan, the purpose of which currently is to ensure money e.g. for food and housing for the students during their studies. The current economic situation, the rise in the cost of living and the acceleration of the inflation rate weaken the students’ relative income and ability to pay. In addition to this, the rise in interest rates makes taking out a student loan an even more risky and expensive way to finance studies. Students are already living below the poverty line even with the loan.

Free education is the cornerstone of Finnish culture, and guaranteeing it to everyone is of paramount importance in a welfare state. It is outrageous that our society only sees students as a tool to fix the problems of working life, and does not see the value produced by students or studying in itself. The target times for completing studies are shortened, credit requirements are increased, livelihoods are always made more loan-oriented at the same time as student wellbeing decreases, living becomes more expensive and the resources of higher education institutions are reduced. Students are the experts of the future, which the Finnish welfare state needs even more urgently in the future. However, it seems that the state is not ready to take care of them, or to offer them a real opportunity to study.

The student unions ASK, Helga, HUMAKO, Laureamko and O’diako would like to note that, according to studies, the benefit of the tuition fees collected from students from outside the EU/EEA countries has been practically plus-minus-zero. Tuition fees have not increased the funding of higher education institutions, let alone improved the quality of education. The introduction of tuition fees would also be in great conflict with the goals of the Ministry of Education and Culture related to higher education. The goal of the Ministry of Education and Culture is to raise Finland’s education level and speed up the transition of young people to the labor market. If tuition fees were to be introduced, the poorest students would probably have to take more gap years to finance their higher education.

In its memorandum, the Ministry of Finance acknowledges the discriminatory effect of tuition fees and proposes a scholarship system tied to academic success as a solution. The less well-off could, like in the United States, have the opportunity to complete a university degree if they are at the top of their age group. This would not apply to the wealthy. In addition, the pressure to do well in school would reach even earlier to elementary school. The efforts for equality of opportunity in terms of education would fall apart. Finnish society needs more highly educated skills to cope with the challenges of the future. This creates challenges for the higher education system, but if it is desired to increase the population with higher education, tuition fees would most likely stand in the way of this goal. Finding ways to secure higher education funding is important, but tuition fees are not the solution.

On behalf of ASK, The Student Union of Arcada University of Applied Sciences,
Ida Flemmich

On behalf of Helga, The Student Union of Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences,
Diana Murashkina

On behalf of HUMAKO, The Student Union of Humak University of Applied Sciences,
Sini Riihimäki

On behalf of Laureamko, The Student Union of Laurea University of Applied Sciences,
Suvi Nieminen

On behalf of O’Diako, The Student Union of Diaconia University of Applied Sciences,
Halla Kokkonen

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