Higher education is freezing – even instant noodles are expensive

The weather report in Estonia predicts more and more minus degrees and people here are worried about their cars which are not working due to the freezing weather. At the same, time we tend to forget that our higher education system, and especially every student, is freezing too.

Instant noodles, which are beloved by students all around the world, are getting more and more expensive. Their price has risen from just thirty cents to seventy to ninety cents. This means that some of the students have to use one package for two meals. Nutrient-dense foods are out of the option because this is too expensive for many students. The only option is to visit home or grandparents to get nutrient-dense food. Energy crises have risen to unbelievable levels but that is what everyone already knows because of their communal bills.

Performance scholarship in Estonia is 100 euros per month and that was stated first in 2013. It is also vital to remember that the inflation rate in 2013 was 2.78% and in 2022 it was 17.6% per year. In addition, places for the performance scholarship are limited and often even a GPA of 4.9 is not enough to get the scholarship.

Countries all around Europe see the problems that have risen for students because of the energy crises and high inflation rates. That is why many countries in Europe have created several support mechanisms to support students. For example in Germany where the inflation rate last year was 8.6%, helped students cover the costs of the energy crisis and inflation by 200 euros. Keep in mind that the price of instant noodles hasn’t risen there as much as it has in Estonia!
Even if a student has turned off all the radiators at home to save money and wears several layers of clothes at home, the situation isn’t much different at university buildings. We could read from the articles in the media how students had to wear winter jackets in classes to stay warm. In addition, many institutes have been thinking about moving the teaching to Zoom again to save money during the cold period. The underfunding of higher education has been a problem for years but this year it is even more pressing because the costs of pretty much everything has risen a lot. That is why it is vital to support higher education institutions and students both – to keep university buildings open and warm.

To buy instant noodles and a laptop needed during the exam period, many students have to work. Due to the energy crisis and inflation, more students have to work to survive. That makes it even more important to ban unpaid internships because students are not a free workforce.

Considering the latter, it is clear that the mental health of students might get hurt in the process so students have to deal with other health problems, not just cold. That is why students must have access to free psychological help.

Indexed student grants, freezing the repayment of student loans, making student grants more accessible and all the latter are supported by students around Europe. That is written in the European Student Union’s resolution about student poverty which was joined by the Federation of Estonian Student Unions as well.

Let’s come back to the student who has trouble buying instant noodles. If we want our country to have educated people in the future, we need to support students who are moving toward that goal right now. It isn’t possible to be successful in university without nutrition-dense food, a warm home, and university buildings and also working at the same time.

It would be naive to expect changes this winter but I would like to stress to all the candidates that are running for the parliament that next time will be cold too. We need to find measures to make the situation better for students. Education is the future of our country and culture and if education freezes, so does our future.

Katariina JärveCommunications Manager