– Right now it’s about things going around here and now.
That’s what Bachelor student in culture and communication at UiO Victoria Thorbjørnsen (25) says. She spends a lot of time on the part-time job she has alongside her studies. As a result, she earns more than the limit the Lånekassen has set for annual income, before you get less of the student aid converted into a scholarship. As of today, the limit is NOK 199,591. Thorbjørnsen has so far in September earned more than the income limit allows. She estimates to exceed it by 70,000 before the end of the year.
In the years before she became a student, she worked full-time and got into the housing market. Now she has fixed expenses of NOK 15,000 only from the mortgage and electricity bills.
For every kroner she exceeds the income limit, a lower proportion of the monthly student aid will be converted into a scholarship. It has no effect here and now, but later studies ended in the form of a higher student loan than she had imagined.
– Everything from here onwards is going to sting sometime in the future, she says about the consequences of being drawn for a scholarship.
Thorbjørnsen is critical of the income limit and feels that student life with crackling bread and noodles is often romanticised. She has clear expectations for this year’s national budget, and believes that one of two things is bound to happen.
– Either we have to get more in student aid or the income limit has to be raised. It is very strange that we are expected to continue living on the same low income, when all prices in society are going up, she adds.
If she had decided to come under the income limit, she would have had to take drastic measures and, if necessary, move home with her parents for the rest of the year, she says.
– What does it mean for students in general if the limit had been higher?
– It would have removed an additional element of stress for a student with poor means from before, who also has to stress about future expenses.
Thorbjørnsen believes the signals from the politicians are confusing.
– They say both “keep going” and “do what you can”, but also “don’t work too much”.
She does not believe that a higher income limit would have led to students working much more than they do now, but that it would have helped those who want to work to, for example, get into the housing market after their studies.
Now she dreads high electricity bills that coincide with the exam period when she works less, and has less to worry about. She does not ignore the fact that she may have to make a phone call home.
Elisabeth Orøy (25) has also experienced earning above the Lånekassen’s income limit. At the end of her first year as a student, she received a job offer she couldn’t refuse. It ended with her exceeding the Lånekassen’s income limit for the next two years and being drawn into a scholarship. Due to unforeseen things that have happened in her life, she has found herself having to work a lot to cover large health expenses. It went beyond her study progression, and she has not completed the bachelor’s degree she started in 2019.
– I have felt forced to go down to part-time studies in order to survive, to earn enough, she says.
She thinks that earning just below the income limit is not enough to live a decent life and to cover unexpected income. Orøy believes the income limit should be increased to NOK 300,000.
– For many, the effort will be the same, but you get more in return for giving. At least you won’t be punished, she says.
Orøy takes a dark view of the consequences if the current situation does not change.
– It will almost be a privilege to study. In the end, only those who have financial support from home actually get to study. It is very sad.
– Students are punished twice
– Those with good advice get away because they get support from home and keep the scholarship, while others have to work and are punished because they have to.
Nursing student and city council representative for the Labor Party Henrik Dahl Jacobsen (25) believes that this is the unfortunate result of today’s income limit. He speaks for the occasion as a private person. He believes that an income limit of less than NOK 200,000 is too low and that it punishes students doubly for working alongside their studies and demands a separate party in government.
– You shouldn’t have to work so much alongside your studies, but right now that’s the reality, and then you shouldn’t be punished for it, says Jakobsen.
– It should not be the case that you, as a student with bad advice, should consider whether you should agree to a guard because you lose more by it, he adds.
This affects students in Oslo the hardest, he believes, as the income limit does not take into account either price increases or large variations in the rental markets around the country. Jakobsen hopes that an increase in the income limit is something that can be taken into account in this year’s state budget.
In August, Universitas wrote several cases about the student aid in connection with the price increases that have characterized the news picture recently. Then State Secretary Oddmund Løkensgard Hoel dampened expectations for an increase in student aid, saying that students live in a life situation where they have the freedom to organize their private finances.
In another case by Universitas, the same state secretary replies that the education support requires students to work alongside their studies. Jakobsen has learned this.
– Ola Borten Moe (Minister of Research and Higher Education, editor’s note) believes that it is good that the students work on the side. If it is to be taken seriously, it should have a practical meaning in the policy that is put forward.
Like Orøy, he is clear that an increased income limit is a short-term solution and that the long-term solution is to increase student aid.
“Today’s income limit of approximately NOK 200,000 is generous for an ordinary full-time student”, writes political adviser in the Ministry of Education and Science Signe Bjotveit in an e-mail to Universitas.
She describes the level of the current income limit as appropriate and believes it ensures a balance between part-time work and studies.
“The income limit is basically set the same for everyone, regardless of where the income comes from and what kind of background the individual has,” she writes.
Bjotveit believes that the choice of workload alongside the studies is up to each individual, and believes that it is good that students gain experience in the labor market. She further writes:
“We see positively that students gain important experience on the labor market, and are better equipped for the working life that awaits after their studies.”
“The education support is set up so that it gives students the opportunity to work alongside their studies. At the same time, there should be a good balance between study effort and time spent on work, which the vast majority of students seem to achieve”, continues Bjotveit and points out that today there is a high demand for labour.
– Where does the current government think the income limit should go?
“The purpose of the education support schemes is to help eliminate inequality across society. Needs testing of scholarships against income, wealth and social security and pension benefits is therefore an important means of redistributive policy,’ she concludes.