The year 2020 has not been easy for anyone. Nor for students, who in many cases, depending on the educational institution in which they are enrolled, may have seen the academic year disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Finnish Social Security Institution (Kela) is aware of these unexpected difficulties. And for this reason, it has established a new mechanism to mitigate the adverse effects of the Covid-19 on the study aid that thousands of students need to live.
Until the outbreak of the epidemic in Finland, the rule said that higher education students must earn at least 5 credits per month receiving financial aid and a minimum of 20 credits per academic year. A month of financial aid refers to a month in which the student has been paid either a study grant, a housing supplement or both.
With this system, in a nine-month academic year, students who received aid throughout the period should have obtained 45 credits. Failure to meet these requirements caused Kela to send them requests to return the money.
New rules for this autumn
But this autumn the rules will be different. According to a statement released by the Social Security on 21 August, due to the emergency conditions caused by the coronavirus epidemic, 2 months will be deducted from those used in the academic year 2019-2020 when monitoring study progress.
In practice, this means that if a student has received public funds for 9 months in the academic year 2019-2020, just 7 months of financial aid will be taken into account.
Consequently, the minimum number of credits required for the entire academic year will be 35, instead of 45.
If students earn fewer credits than required, they can avoid complications by returning some financial aid payments received in the first half of the year by 11 September 2020. The payments can be returned through Kela’s online service.
There is a chance that some students may have repaid financial aid because they did not earn enough credits in the 2019-2020 academic year, before the new rule allowing two months to be deducted went into effect. In this case, the student can request that Kela cancel the refund.
Such requests must be submitted with a message via Kela’s e-service by 30 September 2020 at the latest.
Kela monitors the academic progress of higher education students on a yearly basis. In autumn 2019, a total of 13,000 students in higher education were sent a letter asking them to provide further information.