Government parties, student unions are opposed to debt forgiveness

Government parties, student unions are opposed to debt forgiveness

Proposal of the Minister of Science and Culture Antti Kurvinen (Cen), which would encourage highly skilled workers to move to sparsely populated areas in Finland, has not received widespread support from student organizations or his party government.

Both the Greens and the Left Alliance have stated that they do not believe that debt forgiveness would be the most effective way to address Finland’s regional skilled labor shortage, adding that funding for such a reform would be surprisingly high.

The Green Party also added that changes to the student grant system must first focus on raising student grants or other financial grant initiatives.

Member of the Greens Iiris Suomela – who will become the interim leader of the party as the current chairman Maria Ohisalo is on maternity leave – said the current study grant does not provide students with sufficient income during their studies. This complicates the students’ daily lives, Suomela added, and may even delay their graduation because students have to work long days while studying.

"With regard to scholarships, I consider securing students’ livelihoods to be a priority, and I will not raise these regional policy objectives in relation to the above-mentioned priority," Suomela told the news agency STT in response to a question about Minister Kurvinen’s proposal.

The proposed plan, based on a similar model in Norway, would provide full or partial relief from student debt for graduates of courses such as medicine or teaching if they move to rural areas.

"The aim is to complete the legislation during this parliamentary term. I hope that we will also start this compensation model during this term," Kurvinen said in connection with the announcement of the proposal and added that he hoped that the draft could be enacted during the term of this current government.

However, Suomela told STT that it is difficult for him to understand why the other governing party is considering proposals that would increase spending, especially when funding for education and science can be significantly cut in the coming years.

"The priority is to reverse the cuts in education and science, rather than looking for new spending projects that are not part of the government’s program," he said.

Good goal, questionable means

Chairman of the Parliamentary Group of the Left Alliance Jussi Saramo told STT that Kurvinen ‘s proposal has made him wonder where the central party – which has pursued a policy of strict economic discipline during government party budget negotiations – has suddenly found money in the state treasury to replace student loans.

Saramo also reiterated Suomela’s comments on possible future cuts in education, culture and sports.

"If there is room for maneuver, this list of cuts is likely to be thoroughly re-examined and then seen as a priority," Saramo told STT.

Both Suomela and Saramo emphasized that they considered the goals of the Norwegian model – alleviating the problems of employment and service provision in rural areas – to be good, but doubted the effectiveness of the model in achieving these goals.

"If the student support system and regional policy are mixed, it must be absolutely certain that it is an effective and economically viable measure. This doesn’t seem like" Saramo said, but added that his party has not formed its final position because Kurvinen’s proposal came unexpectedly and has not been negotiated with other coalition parties.

Prime Minister Marin: A proposal worth considering

However, Kurvinen’s proposal received some support from other government parties. prime minister Sanna Marin (SDP) said the option was "worth considering".

"I consider it one of the possible tools we have in the box. This issue of the transfer of experts to the regions is very real, serious and that is why we need different ways of responding to it, and I myself am open to this proposal," Marin said at an SDP press conference last Thursday.

However, the Prime Minister stressed that the government parties have not yet made decisions on the matter.

Alliance: Financial support for students “higher priority”

At the same time, the University of Finland Students’ Association (SYL) said it did not support the plans for the debt relief program.

The union, which represents university students, said in a statement released on Friday that the government should prioritize the student grant system over support for other policy goals.

According to SYL, Kurvinen’s proposal makes the student aid system an instrument of regional policy.

"A student’s financial support, like other social benefits, must be equal for all its users, regardless of their place of residence or area of ​​study. Whereas the sectoral and regional conditions envisaged for the regional student loan debt relief scheme would seriously run counter to this principle of equality;" President of the Union Annika Nevanpää said in a statement.

Source: The Nordic Page