When it comes to increasing the size of the national economy, people often suggest extending the length of working careers from the beginning, the middle and the end. Measures that are meant to extend careers from the beginning are directly targeted at students. How can we make students graduate within the target time? Which is the better motivator, the carrot or the stick? During the ongoing government formation talks, the negotiators turned to the Ministry of Finance for answers. However, the Ministry's proposals don't seem to consider academic and social viewpoints.
The negotiating politicians are particularly interested in how students' financial aid should be developed to ensure that students graduate within the target time. The Ministry of Finance suggests hurrying the students up by making the financial aid system more punishing. Even though the current system already worsens students' lives in many situations. The Ministry would change students' financial aid by decreasing the eligibility period of study grants, tightening the terms of student loan compensation and introducing tuition fees for years exceeding the target time.
The Ministry's proposals are problematic because they take a very simplistic approach to the issue. They do not take into account the individuality and human nature of students. For example, if someone's studies are delayed for one reason or another, sending them an invoice for an academic year that exceeds the target time does not make the situation any easier. There is a great risk that the degree will never be finished, causing damage to the university, the society and the economy. Not to mention the students themselves.
Is it not the time to discuss how we can encourage students to graduate within the target time instead of punishing them for not doing so? Could we begin to solve the problems by increasing university resources and providing students an adequate income level, well-functioning health care system and support in their everyday lives? If you were to ask the students themselves, the answer would be very clear.
Perhaps the Ministry of Finance shouldn't be the only party to listen to. We need solutions that consider other perspectives besides just the economic one. For example, the negotiating politicians could have asked for suggestions from the National Union of University Students in Finland, which fortunately has humane ways of improving the higher education system and students' everyday lives. If we want to raise the level of education in Finland, we cannot worsen students' everyday lives indefinitely.
For more information, please contact:
Chairperson of the Executive Board, Student Union of the University of Turku
tel. +358 45 3205125