I'm going to sound like a broken record, but for the hard-of-hearing that's probably what it takes to get through. So let me start reminding. Last March, Finnish students joined forces in Helsinki to demonstrate against student allowance cuts planned by the Finnish government. MPs from all coalition parties and minister Arhinmäki, in charge of the student allowance system, came out on a cold spring day to the laureled steps of the Parliament House and guaranteed that no cuts to student allowances would happen when this government is in session.
SYL, the National Union of University Students in Finland, went on to thank the government and especially minister Arhinmäki for his concern for the students. We at BTSB had a few reservations.
Then came summer.
Then it went and the government sat down to discuss its budget and reached a bunch of conclusions in late August - conveniently just before students returned to their academies of higher learning.
At that time, when no-one was really looking, the government decided on the following decisions w/r/t studies and student allowances:
The number of allowance months will be reduced from 60 to 55, starting from August, 2014.
The government will reconsider the +2-years rule that has so far guaranteed the right to study two years past optimal graduation times in higher education.
University funding from the government is currently based on the number of graduates and that of students completing more than 55 credits each year. The latter factor will weigh more in the future, encouraging academic institutions to push students towards faster graduation.
I'll remind you again, dear reader.
They promised not to touch the student allowance system.
SYL issued a statement condemning the moves, while HYY, the Student Union of the University of Helsinki, merely summarized the government decisions (although, it helped write this article, thank you). Ylioppilaslehti did next to nothing to report or comment.
No demonstrations, a weird lack of blog-posts, no rousing messages on mailing-lists.
Did we, like, forget the kind words that we heard in March? Did we accept that this is just the way it is, we'll get screwed no matter what, our demonstrations are just petty gestures about which no-one gives a shit? Did we graduate and stopped caring or were we freshmen who just got in and didn't know that we should care?
I think we got a bad case of student Alzheimer's. The predictable nature of the government's betrayal (that's what I'm calling it), the seeming inevitability of cuts and sanctions and this-probably-won't-apply-to-me nihilism had us, as a student body, shrug our shoulders and move on like nothing happened.
Someone will say that this was no biggie, that it could have been worse.
Duh, I reply. But these decisions stand as the first steps of an agenda designed to end free higher education in Finland and move us back to the dark ages of our parent's youth when there was nothing but loan to get you through studies. That would save a tanker-load of cash on the short term. And that seems to be the only term Finnish governments, elected for four short years at a time, can think of.
According to SYL, the student allowance law has been changed 2,5 times each year after it came to effect in 1992. The major changes of 2011 have not even been evaluated and already we stride forth into new exciting territories of financial instability for students across the country. Maybe it's time we start shaking all this dementia and stop voting these guys into the Parliament?