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Kela demands explanations from 15K students about slow progress

The number of students at risk of losing study stipends has risen by 13 percent since last year, according to the benefits agency.

Students at Oulu University of Applied Sciences (OAMK) in late September. Image: Risto Degerman

The Social Insurance Institution (Kela) said on Wednesday that it will cut off financial aid to more than 15,000 higher-education students in January unless they can explain sufficiently why their studies are not progressing at a reasonable rate. They must do so within the next three weeks.

The benefits agency has sent clarification requests to 15,600 university-level students whose studies have not progressed sufficiently, according to its records. Those receiving the letters must respond by 25 October or face a cut-off of study support at the beginning of next year.

In a statement, Kela said it bases its monitoring of study progress on the 2021-22 academic year and "if necessary, the entire time the student has studied at a higher education institution in Finland".

The requests affect more than 10 percent of the 138,000 tertiary students who received study support for at least a month during the last academic year.

Transcripts back to 2011 may be considered

Clarification requests have been mailed out to 8,400 people enrolled at universities and 7,200 at universities of applied sciences.

The number of such requests is up by about 13 percent from a year ago, when 13,800 such letters were sent out.

Most students are obliged to complete at least 20 credits during an academic year. This includes an average of at least five credits per support month, either during the past academic year or their entire period of study. This may go as far back as 2011, including interruptions in studies.

If a student continues studying after earning a university degree, their progress is monitored beginning from the month after graduation.

Student living expenses rising sharply

Based on each student's reply, Kela will consider whether there is an acceptable reason for insufficient progress in their studies.

If the student does not respond to the clarification request or the reasons provided are not accepted, Kela will terminate the study support as of 1 January.

Study stipend recipients are coming under the microscope just as their living expenses are rising sharply. During the summer, Kela noted that inflation has weakened the purchasing power of students with study benefits, with more and more resorting to taking out loans to cover costs.

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