According to a survey by the Student Union of Latvia (LSA), around one tenth of students is planning to drop out because of financial problems, either caused by COVID-19 crisis and general. Some are forced to work in parallel to studying but not all employers are fine with that. Ministry of Education and Science (IZM) has acknowledged the problem.
IZM has decided to up the number of stipend receivers, as well as the amount - from 100 to 200 EUR. Altogether, stipends could go to around 4000 students in state budget seats. However, those who pay for studies are disappointed as they are the ones who suffer the most financially. Lelde, a student at Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) admitted her parents were paying for her studies, undergraduate and graduate. If they did not, her situation would be different.
"Those in state budget seats sometimes study just because they know they would be in budget. (..) Many just get into some university, some program they are not even interested in, and get the budget seat. And then the reality is - surprising if they even finish studies," said Lelde.
She believes that if paying students received financial support the situation would improve.
Beāte is planning to study for Master's degree this year at the University of Latvia (LU). She had to quit her job because of this, as her employer was not satisfied with her plans. She is hoping for a budget seat.
"It is as if good that they motivate the best students with stipends and budget seats. It's all cool but it depends on how many budget seats there are altogether. For example, LU Economy study program has two budget seats. With 50 people in the group, how real is it [to get one]? And I don't believe those two - in budget seats - are working. And so the vicious cycle begins," said Beāte.
Both students said a Master's degree was optional. But if one wants to improve his/her knowledge, the choice is logical. Latvian Employers' Confederation (LDDK) also thinks that students should be supported. Though excellence is important, the working environment needs average students, too.
"Employers should give some stipend support (..) There must be some tax relief, or other mechanisms so employers are interested in doing that. Also, our recent initiative - working environment-based studies," said LDDK spokesman Rihards Blese. The Confederation also encouraged higher education institutions to use skill and experience programs for students with the unemployed status.
IZM said that this year, student credit rules are relaxed. It is clear, though, that support is insufficient.
"In this aspect, we are lagging behind many European countries, also our neighboring countries. We see many students working, instead of focusing on studies," said IZM spokesman Dmitrijs Stepanovs, adding that the Ministry would consider what to do about it.