Basic social assistance for students

Before applying for basic social assistance, first find out if you are entitled to student financial aid (study grant and student loan) and to general housing allowance payments.

If you do not qualify for financial aid for students or other financial support (such as a rehabilitation allowance), you must have some other primary source of livelihood than basic social assistance (for instance paid employment).

During the summer months, you are expected to work, to actively seek employment, or to study and apply for summer financial aid.

As a student, you may be entitled to basic social assistance. This may be the case for example if you cannot get financial aid for students because

  • you have not been able to secure a student loan from a bank
  • you have used up all of your eligibility for financial aid
  • your financial aid payments have been stopped because you have not made satisfactory academic progress
  • you have not been granted student financial aid or it has been discontinued for some other reason.

Social assistance is free from tax, and it does count as income for financial aid purposes.

Particular expenses related to study at the upper secondary level (e.g. tuition fees, entrance and matriculation examination charges, and study materials and equipment) can be covered by supplementary social assistance, which is granted by municipal authorities.

First apply for a student loan

All students who are 18 years or older are expected to apply for a student loan if they need financial assistance.

  • Your student loan is considered as income for purposes of the basic social assistance in respect of the period during which you are entitled to a loan.
  • The amount of loan that would be disbursed monthly is considered as income if you do not apply for a government loan guarantee or a loan despite there being no reason why you could not get a loan. If you have been turned down for a student loan, it is not considered as income.

Students of vocational schools and upper secondary schools (senior high schools) are expected to apply for a student loan if they need financial assistance. However, students who are 18 or older are not expected to apply for a student loan if doing so could lead to unreasonable or unfair consequences. This is the case for example

  • if a person’s ability to work and to earn a living is impaired by a serious illness or other similar reason,
  • if a person receives follow-up care from the child welfare services,
  • if requiring a student to take out a loan would be unreasonable in light of the financial circumstances of the student and their parents (for example that they receive social assistance),
  • if the student has experienced particular hardship in the past and the studies do not merely serve an educational purpose but are also designed to meet objectives related to rehabilitation or the prevention of social exclusion, such as in the case of former inmates and persons undergoing rehabilitation for intoxicant abuse or mental health problems.

Kela examines each case individually.

If you take longer to graduate

If you take longer to graduate, meaning

  • that you have used up your entitlement to student financial aid or some other benefit paid to you on account of studies, and cannot get an extension, or
  • that your financial aid or other benefit payments have been terminated because you have not made satisfactory academic progress.

If you are not entitled to such primary benefits as financial aid for students, adult education allowance, rehabilitation allowance or unemployment benefits, you can apply to Kela for basic social assistance. You must tell Kela how long you need to complete your degree. A few months, or up to one academic term, is usually considered reasonable.

If your financial aid payments have been discontinued and you have not made satisfactory academic progress, you must complete the required studies as soon as possible. Up to one term is considered reasonable.

In the above situations, basic social assistance can be granted for up to two months at a time. Your academic progress will be monitored.

If you do not get financial aid for students

If you are completing a second degree after graduating from university or gaining vocational qualifications, you may not necessarily qualify for student financial aid. There are also courses of study for which financial aid is not available (for example upper secondary school for adult students and open university), in which case you are as a rule expected to have earnings or some other source of income (for example an unemployment benefit) to finance your study.

You can get basic social assistance at the full amount for up to two months. If you do not find work within that period, and you are not entitled to unemployment benefits, the basic amount of the social assistance may be reduced. In this case Kela will notify the municipal social services and refer you to them. They will draw up a plan outlining how you can increase your autonomy and independence and what could be done to support you in that effort.

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