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Latvian students ask for continued state financial support

The new academic year is fast approaching, but it is unclear whether student excellence stipends will remain at the current level, Latvian Television reported August 1.

During the Covid-19 pandemic last year, the state provided additional support to excelling students of Latvian universities, doubling the amount of the stipend from around €100 a month to €200 a month.

Although the country's official state of emergency situation is over, many students are still experiencing financial difficulties. Therefore, the Student Union of Latvia (LSA) wants more clarity on the issue of the scholarship.

"There is no grant of €200 in the national budget for 2022. We are also asking, so that there is no gap in receiving payments, to keep [the stipends] at €200 per month in the autumn semester,” said Kristafers Zeiļuks, president of the LSA.

The Ministry of Education and Science (IZM) noted that increasing scholarships was a one-off aid measure last academic year. In order to continue this in the following school year, five million euros would be needed in next year's state budget. The Ministry has included this funding in the list of priorities for the budget. For the time being, the prospect of an agreement on the allocation of money is unclear.

“In this case, given that the budget process for next year has only started by submitting priorities, and we know that in this case, the annual budget only reflects the smallest part of the priorities, the chances are... Yes, they exist! But it will depend on both the government's decisions and then on the Saeima's decision,” said Dmitrijs Stepanovs, director of the IZM Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation.

Active budget talks will start in August, when there will also be more clarity on the money available for stipends. However, according to the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Education and Science has only placed stipends in the tenth place on the list of priorities.

State support for students has been a standing issue in Latvia. Around the same time last year, LSM already reported that around 10% of students were ready to drop out directly due to financial trouble. No such data are available for this year so far but it is clear that keeping excellence stipends at the increased level would likely contribute to students staying in school.

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