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High school price tag: 2,000 euros

While education in Finland is free, the Union of Upper Secondary School Students estimates that attending an academic high school can cost as much as 2,000 euros. Students try to cut costs by purchasing used textbooks – but that's less often an option as schools increasingly switch to electronic textbooks.

Oppikirjat myymälä.
Image: Retu Liikanen / Yle

The Union of Upper Secondary School Students calculates the average cost to a student of three years of high school education at around 2,000 euros.

The organisation's chair, Elli Luukkainen, says the estimate includes equipment costs. As matriculation examinations will be completely electronic by 2019, each high school student must have the use of an up-to-date laptop that meets certain specifications.

"The overall cost has specifically been raised by the need to buy a computer. The total cost of books may be 1,700-1,800 euros, depending on which titles are required by the curriculum," says Luukkainen, 19-year-old Helsinki art student. Secondary schooling in Finland usually lasts three years, although some students graduate in two or four years depending on their field of study.

Book costs can naturally be cut by buying them second-hand and selling them after use. However at present this is not technically possible with electronic textbooks, which are becoming more widely used in schools.

"One of the biggest problems with electronic textbooks is that the price level is practically the same as traditional books. But the difference is that you can't buy electronic books used, or sell them afterwards. So they can end up costing you more," says Joosua Kuusela, a second-year high school student from Ingå, west of Helsinki.

"Sounds realistic"

The estimate of 2,000 euros, or nearly 700 annually, sounds correct to many upper-secondary students.

"If you want to have a quality high school education and study well, that sum of 2,000 euros sounds pretty realistic. Of course it could be a bit less if you use a cheaper computer and second-hand textbooks," Edvin Ingman, a second-year student in Espoo, tells Yle.

Luukkainen notes that the cost of electronic textbooks may drop in the future, bringing down overall expenditures. So far though, she says there are no signs of this.

"So far the cost of long-term licenses for e-books is not significantly lower than traditional books. I assume and hope that the increasing use of electronics will help students in the future," says Luukkainen.

Costs spread over several years

Aulis Pitkälä, Director General of the National Board of Education, agrees that upper-secondary costs are significantly higher than those in elementary school.

"Of course 2,000 euros is a lot compared to the free education at elementary schools. Certainly there is a cost for learning materials, including digital materials," she says. However the cost is spread out over several years and the laptop may still be usable after graduation.

The price level is however moderate by international standards, though, concede some students such as Ingman.

"In a lot of countries, you have to pay for secondary education, so the overall costs can easily be in the tens of thousands. Compared to that, we have it pretty well here," says Ingman.

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