The price of student meals at Finnish third level institutions is set to increase in the autumn, according to a report by news agency STT.
Minister of Science and Culture Petri Honkonen (Cen) told STT that the maximum price of a student meal will be increased by 50 cents from the beginning of October.
He added that the price of meals is rising because the cost of running restaurants and cafeterias has increased significantly due to the effects of a rising inflation rate.
"The price of food has risen so much that it is already threatening the very existence of these student restaurants. Of course we don't want that," Honkonen said.
Student eateries are bound by a government decree that sets the maximum price of a student meal eligible for subsidies at 5 euros. Special meals may cost more.
Kela's meal allowance is currently 2.30 euros per portion, so students usually have to pay the difference — 2.70 euros — for their meal.
Honkonen said he will also propose in next year's draft budget that the student meal subsidy be increased by 25 cents, meaning the price of a student meal could therefore fall again by the end of the year.
The difference in timing between the subsidy and the increase in the maximum price is due to the fact that the subsidy is a matter for the state budget, while the maximum price is regulated by government decree. The state budget will be decided by Parliament before the end of this year.
"Meal subsidies will be increased as soon as possible. If Parliament approves it, the dent in the student budget will not be so big," Honkonen said, adding that he has been approached by both student organisations and companies that run student restaurants about the matter.
Raising the maximum price can, Honkonen further noted, help the domestic food production industry, as restaurants will look to cheaper imported options if profitability becomes too tight.
Kela-subsidised meals for university students are also a good social policy, he added.
"It supports healthy eating at that stage of life and is also an important part of promoting socialisation on campuses," he said.