An amendment package to the law on social welfare planned in the Ministry of Social Affairs will save 70 million kroons (4.4 million euros) a year but will leave thousands of students without a chance to get a living allowance, according to the ministry and Estonian student organizations.
The amendments claim that persons aged under 24 are part of their parents' household, regardless of the fact that thousands of students have to leave home to receive higher education.
Today a student 18 or older living in a dorm or renting a room away from home may apply for the living allowance. Calculated according to a special formula, the allowance takes into account the balance between the income a person receives and the money left after paying rent and utilities.
The amended law would not take into account whether students receive anything from their parents, according to the Federation of Estonian Student Unions.
"There is no rational explanation to this (amendment) except a wish to save money on students' account," said Rait Talvik, public policy director of the federation.
Talvik also claimed the amended law would nullify the chances of young people from low income families of getting a good education.
According to the Ministry of Social Affairs, the amendment will help save money on students who receive living allowance and give it to those who really need it.
The amendment package, already filed to the Parliament, also proposes a 50 kroon raise in the child allowance.
The ministry has in the past voiced concern about the growing number of students applying for living allowances. From 2000 to 2002, the share of students out of the general mass of people receiving the allowances has been growing by 10 percent per year.
Starting January 2002 almost 12,000 students have received living allowances.
In all, there are about 70,000 families in Estonia who receive the allowance.