Greater Helsinki area expected to see the largest increase in school transport subsidy take-up following the introduction of free upper secondary education

Free upper secondary education will make more students eligible for school transport subsidy payments. The number of recipients is expected to increase the most in the Greater Helsinki area.

The eligibility criteria for the school transport subsidy will change on 1 August 2021. The criteria which apply to students entitled to free upper secondary level education are different in certain ways from those applicable to other students. For students entitled to free education, the travel distance between home and school must be at least seven kilometres, and they do not have to pay any copayments.

– According to Piia Kuusisto of Kela’s Student Financial Aid Section, the lifting of the copayment requirement means that students entitled to free education can travel between home and school free of charge as long as they meet the eligibility requirements.

One change that applies to all students is that it is possible to qualify even if you do not travel to school daily. Students who have at least 15 travel days in a calendar month qualify for the full subsidy. If there are 10 to 14 travel days, the subsidy is half the full amount.

– This is a significant change. For example, if a student lives with each parent in alternate weeks, they are eligible for the subsidy even if they only meet the criteria when travelling to school from one of the parents, Piia Kuusisto says.

Number of school transport subsidy recipients expected to increase the most in the Greater Helsinki area

In academic year 2019–2020, school transport subsidies were paid to a total of 45,000 students. During the drafting of the new Act on Compulsory Education, it was estimated that decreasing the travel distance requirement from 10 to 7 kilometres for those entitled to free education and lifting the copayments would add about 46,000 new recipients.

– About 60% of them study in the Greater Helsinki area, Kuusisto says.

Oulu has the largest number of school transport subsidy recipients in absolute terms, while Vesilahti tops the list when adjusted for population

In academic year 2019–2020, the number of school transport subsidy recipients was highest in Oulu, but when the number of recipients was adjusted to the regional population between 16 and 25 years, Vesilahti came out on top.

The table below shows the top 10 municipalities in terms of the number of school transport subsidy recipients relative to the number of 16 to 25-year-olds living in the municipality. The figures are for December 2020.


Number of school transport subsidy recipients

Percentage of municipal population between 16 and 25

Vesilahti 120 31,9
Lumijoki 69


Oripää 38 30,4
Taivassalo 25 30,1
Sauvo 64 29,9
Uurainen 74 29,7
Siikainen 25 29,4
Kaavi 53 29,3
Ristijärvi 16 28,6
Vehmaa 50 28,4

The municipality and regional statistics are available in the Kelasto statistical database.

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