STUDENTS INVITED TO GATHER IN FRONT OF THE UT LIBRARY ON 11 MARCH AT 17:00
In connection with the parliamentary elections and the negotiations for forming the new government coalition, the UT Student Council has found it their duty to organise a peaceful protest action on 11 March at 17:00 in front of the UT library. The aim of the event is to remind the Government of the Republic of Estonia of the unfortunate state of higher education funding and to highlight the need to re-evaluate the social guarantees for students.
A strategy for establishing a social guarantee programme for students
A student's job is studying and it is in the best interests of everyone – lecturers, students themselves and the society – to ensure that this task is carried out as well as possible. To help students focus on studying, social guarantee programmes have been established.
A social guarantee system signifies a safety net that “must allow students make ends meet without having to work, extend their period of study or terminate studies in order to provide for themselves, it must guarantee everyone access to higher education and enable students to fully commit to their studies”. The current system cannot fulfil these objectives: nearly 50% of students must work to cover living costs and almost 40% would not be able to afford higher education if they were not working .
Where do these problems stem from? Although being released of paying the tuition fee in case you study an Estonian curriculum full time is a necessary component of the social guarantee programme, it alone does not suffice to provide said safety net. Firstly, all students need resources for purchasing basic necessities to get by day-to-day as well as to fund living costs.
Many students can only afford living in residence halls that offer housing to merely 3200 UT students, whereas there are approx. 13,000 students at UT altogether. Secondly, this system creates a financial barrier that hinders all those facing other obligations or conflicts of choice (e.g. having to balance school and work) from studying full-time. This goes against a principle established in the lifelong learning strategy that claims, “that everyone has been created equal opportunities for lifelong learning.” 
Every social guarantee programme has two pillars – financial support and student loans, either one can be in focus in different countries. In Estonia, this system is on its last legs. The main kind of financial support offered to students in Estonia is the needs-based study allowance which has several issues.
The economic prerequisites for dividing up funding are skewed, since they tie the student to the income of their parents until they turn 25. This is especially problematic in case students have severed ties with their parents.
The system does not apply to part-time students, including those who have had to resort to this arrangement to be able to work and provide for themselves.
The size of the allowance is outdated. Based on the parents' incomes, students can either receive 75, 135 or 220 euros per month (44%, 22% and 33% of students receiving the allowance respectively). Currently, 22% of all students receive this financial support. A parallel: the minimal cost of a monthly food basket in 2018 was 99 euros and 71 cents. Rent per person in a double room (Narva mnt 25 residence hall) is 80 euros per month without utility costs. This means that the current funding is not sufficient to cover all living costs .
Shortly put, a limited number of students are eligible for the support schemas and the system cannot cover the actual living costs of students.
The same applies to student loans.
The maximum student loan size in the 2018/2019 academic year is 2000 euros per year which would amount to a monthly income of 167 euros .
The interest rate is 5% per year which is 2.5–5 times higher than the European average, interest must be paid back already during the study period once a year.
The loan itself must be paid back starting from 12 months after graduation and within two standard periods of study. This is too soon and too quickly.
In order to apply for the loan, at least two guarantors are required which is why many students have essentially been stripped of this opportunity.
Because of this, the student loan system cannot be considered a part of the social guarantee programme. Student loans can definitely contribute to social security but it cannot be the main component of the guarantee system. Relying purely on the loan might become a burden to the student. For example, having student loans might make it harder to get approved for home loans. Insufficient living conditions and economic instability in turn make young people postpone having children .
Besides the aforementioned economic factors, there is also a purely regulative barrier that impedes painless studies and graduation – while on academic leave, students lose their rights. If a student goes on academic leave then they
cannot participate in studies, sit exams or complete assessments,
lose their health insurance,
cannot apply for financial support (excluding stipends for special needs students), student loans or survivor's pension.
Being stripped of these opportunities places students in a tough economic situation, does not allow them to catch up and leads to termination of studies.
In conclusion, students have ten demands.
The right to free higher education must remain available to all and extend to part-time students.
Every student must have a right to reasonably priced student housing at the dormitories.
Upon granting needs-based study allowances, students must be legally detached from their parents' incomes, unless they share living spaces. The age limit must drop from 24 to 21 .
The size of the needs-based study allowance must be equal to the minimal cost of one to three monthly food baskets.
Students must be automatically notified of being eligible for the allowance.
The maximum amount of student loans must be increased to 7000 euros per year .
The interest rate of the student loan must drop to zero and student loans must not have to be paid back until the borrower's monthly salary equals median income.
The only guarantor of student loans must be the state.
All students must be allowed to take courses during academic leave.
Health insurance must be guaranteed even while the student is on academic leave .
WE INVITE YOU TO JOIN US ON 11 MARCH AT 17:00 IN FRONT OF THE UT LIBRARY
 Federation of Estonian Student Unions. 2018. “Eesti Üliõpilaskondade Liidu avaliku poliitika seisukohad” eyl.ee/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/E%C3%9CL-avaliku-poliitika-seisukohad-1.pdf (retrieved 1 March 2019), pp. 10–11.
 Hanna-Stella Haaristo, Laura Kirss, Cenely Leppik, Eve Mägi & Sandra Haugas. 2017. “Eesti üliõpilaste eluolu 2016: rahvusvahelise üliõpilaste uuringu EUROSTUDENT VI Eesti analüüs.” Tallinn: Praxis Centre for Policy Studies, p. 60, hm.ee/sites/default/files/uuringud/eurostudent_vi_eesti_aruanne_2017.pdf (retrieved 1 March 2019).
 Estonian Ministry of Education and Research. 2018. “Eesti elukestva õppe strateegia 2020”, 11 June, https://www.hm.ee/et/elukestva-oppe-strateegia-2020 (retrieved 1 March 2019).
 Federation of Estonian Student Unions. 2019. “Mida peaks tänane või tulevane tudeng teadma erakondade valimisprogrammidest?”, ERR, 25 Febuary, err.ee/914117/mida-peaks-tanane-voi-tulevane-tudeng-teadma-erakondade-valimisprogrammidest (retrieved 1 March 2019).
 Arvestuslik elatusmiinimum on Statistikaameti poolt arvutatud The minimum subsistence figure is an indicator calculated by Statistics Estonia and references the “minimal livelihood covering everyday needs” and in 2017 it was 215.44 euros.
 Estonian Ministry of Education and Research. 2018. “Õppelaen”, 12 September, hm.ee/et/tegevused/korgharidus/oppelaen (retrieved 1 March 2019).
 European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice. 2017. “National Student Fee and Support Systems in European Higher Education - 2017/18. Eurydice Facts and Figures.” Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, p. 19; Eleri Pilliroog. 2019. “Eleri Pilliroog: praegune toetussüsteem peab ülal tudengite ebavõrdsust” ERR, 29 January,, err.ee/904920/eleri-pilliroog-praegune-toetussusteem-peab-ulal-tudengite-ebavordsust (retrieved 1 March 2019).
 Oras, K., Unt, M. 2008. “Sündimust mõjutavad tegurid Eestis.” Tallinn: Bureau of the Ministry of Demographics (https://www.sm.ee/sites/default/files/content-editors/Ministeerium_kontaktid/Uuringu_ja_analuusid/Sotsiaalvaldkond/sundimust_mojutavad_tegurid_eestis_2008.pdf ) (retrieved 1 March 2019)
 As the Family Law Act states the age until which parents must maintain their children.
 The volume of student loans should take into account the tuition fees of the students' study programmes as well as living costs, which is why the amount could even be larger. We are operating under the premise that the tuition fee for paid programmes is 3400 euros per year and that students get by with 300 euros per month.
 Federation of Estonian Student Unions. 2018. eyl.ee/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/E%C3%9CL-avaliku-poliitika-seisukohad-1.pdf, lk 11.