Student financial aid is undergoing changes on 1 August 2017. After this date, student aid will consist of the study grant and the general housing allowance. Additionally, students are eligible for government guaranteed student loans.
The study grants of higher education students are adjusted to the level of the study grants of secondary education students with effect from 1 August 2017. In the future, students who are of age and live independently will receive study grants of 250.28 euros per month. The maximum period of financial aid will be shortened for students who start on and after 1 August 2017. The number of months of aid for students who have begun before 1 August 2017 is dependent on when they started their studies. More information is available on Kela’s website.
Recovery of student aid or study grant and income limits
Thus far, an unreasonably high fixed rate of 15% has been used in the recovery of student aid. This rate will be halved on 1 August 2017: the recovery conducted in 2018 for student aid granted in 2017 will use a rate of 7.5%.
If you wish to influence the income limits or the monitoring of study progress for 2017, you should primarily cancel or return student aid granted in autumn 2017. This would mean that you only have to return or cancel the study grant, not the housing supplement of the student aid granted in spring 2017.
GENERAL HOUSING ALLOWANCE
Students move under the system of general housing allowance on 1 August 2017.
Exchange students are an exception to this: they will continue to apply for the housing supplement of the student aid for the duration of their studies abroad. This exception is caused by the fact that general housing allowance is not granted to people who live abroad.
You can apply for general housing allowance online (in Finnish or Swedish). Alternatively you can complete and print out an application for housing allowance form and mail it to Kela along with any supporting documents. More information here.
If you work and have an income, use Kela’s calculators to find out from which date onwards you should apply for the housing allowance. The amount of allowance you receive is calculated according to your average estimated income in the next 12 months. You must inform Kela yourself of any significant changes in your income when receiving the allowance – this refers to your income either increasing by over 400 euros per month or decreasing by at least 200 euros per month compared to the estimated income in the previous decision on the housing allowance.
Check your rental agreement and income before applying for housing allowance.
Alone or together – household or not?
Separate rental agreements are contracts for a rented room or section of the apartment made personally and separately by each person living in the apartment.
However, even separate rental agreements may have a so-called clause on joint responsibility. This means that separate tenants are jointly responsible for the rent and/or things such as damages caused to the apartment. For instance, if one of the tenants neglects to pay their share of the rent or damages in the apartment, the other tenants must pay for them instead.
The clause on joint responsibility makes a single household out of people who live in the same apartment, even with separate rental agreements.
The term ‘household’ is considered to include married and cohabitating couples as well as tenants who have a shared rental agreement or a clause on joint responsibility in their rental agreement. Close family members – with the exception of siblings who are of age – automatically belong in the same household.
People who live in the same apartment are chiefly considered to form a single household, which means that the incomes of all members of the household influence the amount of housing allowance granted. A shared household applies for the allowance together, and the allowance is paid to the account mentioned in the application.
However, separate rental agreements make it possible to clarify to Kela that the people living in the same apartment have separate households. People living in the same apartment with separate rental agreements are also considered to make up a household if their rental agreements have a clause on joint responsibility.
If you live in the same apartment with one or more people but do not form a single household, contact your landlord well in advance before applying for housing allowance. The formulation of the rental agreement can be changed in such a way that the tenants would no longer be jointly responsible for rent. One possible way to clarify the living arrangements to Kela is the apartment plan, showing the separate rooms of all tenants, a description of separate utility items and a report on how the flatmates found their shared apartment. The most relevant thing is for the flatmates to have separate rental agreements or a sublease agreement.
So here's what to do if you live with roommates and need to have your houseing allowances paid individually:
1) Check your rental agreement. Does it include a clause on joint responsibility of the apartment and the rent?
2) Contact your landlord
3) Re-negotiate your rental agreement:
Sign individual agreements for every individual roommate
sign sublease agreements
remove a clause on joint responsibility
4) Apply for general housing allowance
5) Now you each should have your own housing allowance
Estimate your income and use Kela’s calculators
General housing allowance is not tied to months of student aid. You can apply for it for every month of the year – even when you are not entitled to receive student aid. The amount of general housing allowance is determined by either your regular income or your estimated income during the next 12 months.
From which date onwards should you apply for general housing allowance? Students move under the system of general housing allowance on 1 August. You can submit your application in advance, but you should choose the date from which the allowance starts to be paid with care. If, for instance, you are still in a well-paid summer job in August, you should apply for general housing allowance starting from the beginning of September. Your estimated income is calculated based on a 12-month average in case your income is not regular and its amount varies greatly.
The housing allowance is also reviewed if the housing costs of the household change at least €50 per month compared to the acceptable housing costs of the previous decision or if the household changes apartments. Changes in the number of household members or subleases also cause an interim review of the housing allowance. If no need for an interim review arises during the year, the recipient of the allowance must request an annual review of the housing allowance one month before the payment of the allowance ends.
The government guarantee in student loans increases from 400 euros to 650 euros per month of student aid. For studies abroad the student loan can be up to 800 euros per month of student aid.
Payment default entries will no longer prevent students from receiving the government guarantee.
The government student loan guarantee is granted according to your amount of study grant months. If you plan to use your student loan guarantee, you should do so before you cancel or pay back financial aid voluntarily for the ongoing period. The bank controls the amount of the guarantee directly from Kela. Look at Kela webpages on how to apply for student loan.
The interest payable on the loan and the repayment schedule are agreed between you and your bank. You can apply for study loan from your own bank or compare several banks. The margin and interest rate are worth some extra attention in your comparison.
Student loan compensation
If you complete your degree in target time, you may be eligible for a student loan compensation. It is only available for your first course of study in higher education. When you have finished your bachelor’s degree you should pounder whether it is better for you to apply for the compensation then or save it for your master’s degree. If you save the compensation for later you have to keep up the good speed in order to benefit from it. Use the calculators from Kela to find out more.
Student loan tax deduction
Those who started their studies during the period 2005-2014 can get a student loan tax deduction if they complete their degree within the target time. You will find more information about it from Kela.
Would you need any further advice, please contact our specialist Hannele Kirveskoski!