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Students march in Helsinki to defend financial aid

Close to 5000 students from around the country gathered in the capital on Wednesday to protest plans to move financial aid to students in a more loan-oriented direction.

Opiskelijat osoittavat mieltään Helsingin Senaatintorilla.
Students carrying a banner reading, "I study, therefore I become indebted?" Image: Yle

Student unions organized the mass demonstration to oppose reforms planned for student financial aid, which would more strictly limit the period when student financial aid can be received or change the aid in a more loan-oriented direction.

Among the changes being reviewed is a "5+1 model" in which all student financial aid should be used in precisely five years, after which students would be eligible to receive only loans. The model has been justified as a means to accelerate studies.

"Indeed it sounds bad, forcing people to take a loan and then assuming that through force or blackmail they'll  complete their studies more quickly. There is just as big a chance that there will be a high threshold to taking a loan. Students may prefer to get a job, doing more work and delay finishing their studies," says Mikko Valtonen, who chairs the Union of Students in Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences.

Students are also demanding that the coalition government makes good on a pledge that student financial aid will be tied to the cost of living index. Student financial aid was last adjusted in 2011.

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