Archive for the ‘Studies’ Category

You have to give the right to succeed

Wednesday, April 5th, 2006

 The title is an excerpt from a letter to party leaders, for which finnish student organizations are trying to get signatures on the site http://opintoraha.fi/.

They are trying to convince the finnish government to up the student benefits by 15% in order to bring it closer to the same actual value as the benefits were more than ten years ago (after which they have not been adjusted). As a brief overview, the finnish student benefit system consist of free studies, a sum of money (~250€/month), 80% of housing expenses covered (capped at ~250€/month) and a low interest loan (capped ad 300€/month), in exchange for studying full time, which is measured by advancement in studies and a cap for salaries you can earn by working on the side (~500€/month). One is entitled for these benefits for approximately 4,5 years of higher level (university & corresponding) studies. In addition to this students get discounts for commuting, dining at student cafeterias, using exercising facilities and going to various cultural happenings.

When compared to most of the world, this sound pretty absurd, but our egalitarian political ground has a consensus on providing the opportunity to be schooled for every person in Finland. And I think this is a worthy goal to chase. (And yes, our taxes are pretty high, thanks for asking icon wink You have to give the right to succeed )

I have signed a similar letter several years ago, but today I have to gather my thoughts more on the subject to make up my mind if the students’ request is in fact justifiable. The student organization’s main argument is that since the benefits have not been adjusted in such a long time and they are lower than in neighbor countries, they would be entitled for more.

I would like to look at this claim on the light of having the right to succeed. Let’s for the sake of argument pretend that having a higher education is a must for succeeding in life and that you need the full benefits (totaling 800€/month) to get it. With the current system you are given the chance study 4.5 years full time, after which you are left with a loan of 16,500€. For this you will probably pay much less than 30,000€ in total after interest if you pay it in the consecutive 20 years. This brings you a ~125€ monthly tax for the next 20 years for being able to succeed.

Is this an unreasonable amount of money to ask for an excellent education that a well educated person could not afford? I think not, and I also think (and have personally witnessed) that you will not really need 800€/month for studying (and living properly) so the actual amount of loan would be less. So if the argument for student benefits are that they must make it possible to succeed, I think they are doing that fine with the current benefits.

What I would like to see is the benefits tied to some living expense indicator that we will maintain the good state of affairs we are at now. But as for the letter, I think it is going to be sent without my name under it this time.