The cost crisis in the media: the voice of the Student Union is heard!

Coins on a table


      On September 14th, Uppsala Student Union published an article in Upsala Nya Tidning (UNT) in which we highlight how inflation is affecting students and call on the incoming government to increase student grants. In the opinion piece, we point out that the increase in the CSN starting in 2023 will not be enough to compensate for inflation in 2022. At the same time, we argue that the core of the problem does not lie in inflation per se. Student finances have been too low since long before prices started to rise. The cost crisis has only made the inadequacy of student funding more acutely visible.

      We quickly received a response from UNT's editorial writer, Karl Rydå, in the form of an editorial published on 20 September. Rydå writes that Uppsala's students do not need extra support and bases his argument on the fact that students simply have it good enough and that, unlike other groups, we have nothing to complain about. He also dismisses the union's line that student grants must be increased as nonsense, as it is something students always nag about regardless of the economic situation.

      In addition to Rydå's response, Uppsala Student Union also received a response in a column published in Lundagård. In the column, education policy writer Staffan Samuelsson rejects what he calls 'student funding populism' on the part of the Uppsala Student Union. Samuelsson seems to prefer fuel populism instead, arguing that a general reduction in the carbon tax is a better measure to support the truly vulnerable, i.e. car-driving families with small children in the countryside. The clash between Samuelsson's argument that higher student grants would mean more money in the pockets of future high-income earners and his own proposal does not seem to have struck the former Timbro writer. To clarify: a general reduction in the carbon tax* would be a financial boost to wealthy multi-car households in metropolitan areas more than it would be a support for the economically vulnerable in rural areas - a boost that, unlike student grants, will also not be paid back.

      The image of students as future high earners and contemporary whiners recurs in both lines. Although Rydå explicitly tries to avoid basing his arguments on his own experience of studying, he still finds it difficult to completely put away his rose-tinted glasses about the misery of being a student. The same restraint is not evident in Samuelsson's text when he puts forward his personal idea of the student as a person with an expensive MacBook, exchange term papers and a prosperous background. 

      On the one hand, we at Uppsala Student Union think that this description of reality says something about Samuelsson's own circumstances; on the other hand, we think that to the extent that the two writers' description is correct, it points precisely to how problematic a low student grant is. Studying should not require a wealthy background where you can get resources for a laptop or an exchange semester from other places than the student grant. One should be able to apply with confidence to programmes that do not promise a future as a high earner and one should not have to come from a background where a few years of poor finances can be taken with a kick in the pants to feel motivated enough to invest in studying.

      The day before the Uppsala Student Union's final report is published in UNT on 27 September, SVT Uppsala is doing two features on student finances. In one of the features, SVT Uppsala follows student Elisa Agnevall as she shops for food. In the clip, we see Elisa choosing not to buy several basic goods and products because they are too expensive. The idea of being able to choose organic food, something Elisa says she wished she could do, is brought up as a joke.

      In the second segment, Uppsala Student Union Vice President Alexander Wilson van Deurs comments on the situation. In the segment, Alexander highlights the seriousness of the situation and the lack of active political measures. Andrea Kollberg, a student at SLU, is also interviewed and discusses how her finances and everyday freedom of action are limited by the lack of sufficient study funds. Alexander concludes by emphasising the need for support for students here and now and that we cannot wait until the end of the year - especially as by then the increase in CSN will already have been swallowed up by rising prices.

      Our final response briefly addresses how the counter-arguments we received simply have no insight into the situation of students or take our arguments seriously. That we as a student union are looking out for the best interests of students is not unreasonable, nor is it something that is done at the expense of other economically vulnerable groups. The fact that we have been doing it for a long time only shows that it has been needed for a long time.

      Fortunately, the relevance of the issue and the interest in raising student finances has only increased since we submitted our opinion piece in early September. Indeed, during October, the issue of student finance has gained increasing visibility in the media. On 6 October, UNT published an article in which Uppsala Student Union President Anton Sánchez Sulejmani and Simon Ågren, President of the Student Union for Educational Sciences and Philosophy at Linköping University, comment on the increasingly vulnerable financial situation of students. On the same day, Anton also comments on the situation in an interview on P4 Uppland, which is followed by a feature where students in Uppsala are asked about the impact of inflation on their finances. Shortly afterwards, on 13 October, Anton appears on Studio Ett to comment on how the dramatic price increase is affecting students.

      The latest in the media coverage of how inflation is hitting students in Uppsala, UNT and SVT each publish a report on how economics student Lina Robertson has been forced to take a break from her studies to make ends meet. The fact that more and more students are choosing to interrupt their studies is something that both Lina testifies to in the interview and that Uppsala Student Union has reported on in our statements during the first two months of the autumn.

      Uppsala Student Union will continue to raise the issue of higher student grants, while the need for them only seems to be increasing. How have you or your study situation been affected by inflation? Please contact us and tell us how the increased prices affect you and your ability to study so that we as a Union can continue to raise the issue. Also, join us in our efforts to lower the price of coffee on campus. So far, we've only mentioned the issue briefly on our social media channels, but more exciting stuff is in the works. Stay tuned!

      Uppsala Student Union

      * Not to mention that the carbon tax is about emissions in industry and transport (not just private car use). Staffan should also air his proposal with Jacob Lundberg, chief economist at Timbro, for whom Staffan has previously written. Jacob mentioned that the carbon tax is the only tax he likes during a economic policy debate organised by Uppsala Student Union before the elections.

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