JYY: The government programme does not address the long-term issues of higher education policy or students’ well-being

The government led by Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (National Coalition Party) was appointed before the Midsummer, and as a result of the government negotiations, the government program titled ‘Strong and Committed Finland’ was published. The Student Union of the University of Jyväskylä (JYY) is concerned that the government’s policies do not address the long-term challenges of higher education, such as student livelihood or the funding gap in universities. 

The national student movement’s goal of increasing student financial aid and reducing the reliance on loans largely remained a dream. Regrettably, cuts to general housing support will be made to the disappointment of students. On the positive side, student financial aid will undergo a comprehensive reform during the government’s term. 

“It is positive and expected that the government program includes a commitment to a comprehensive reform of student financial aid. However, it is still unclear how the support will be concretely reformed. The removal of income limits is a good start, but the level of study grant should also be increased,” emphasizes Konsta Tarnanen, the Chair of the JYY Board. 

Nuutti Ruotsalainen, a member of the JYY Board responsible for municipial politics and parliamentary elections, is concerned about the effects of housing support cuts on student livelihood: “The cuts to housing support directly reduce students’ income and thereby increase their loan burden. The cuts particularly affect working students, which contradicts the encouragement of employment,” Ruotsalainen states. 

Increasing the number of study places, a pet project of politicians, also found its place in the government program. “Increasing the number of study places without the corresponding funding increases the burden on universities and has negative implications for the quality of education,” Tarnanen comments. 

In addition to criticism, the government program receives praise from students as well. The commitments to implementing a therapy guarantee and granting permanent residence permits to those who have completed a higher education degree are steps in the right direction. JYY also supports the provisions to partially make psychotherapy education free of charge. 

However, the main election theme for students, student livelihood, is under threat of deterioration. The focus is on the promises made regarding the special protection of education and ensuring livelihood. 

“The student movement expects the promises to be fulfilled. The burden of tens of thousands in debt, mental health crises, and struggling near the poverty line ensure that students demand the fulfillment of these promises,” Ruotsalainen concludes.