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Originally from the USA, Todd Proctor has been managing a language services company in Finland since 1995.I often hear young foreigners and Finns alike ideating over Finland's wonderful free education system. Wonderful? – maybe. I hope so. Free? – certainly not! As a 27 year resident of Finland I take almost native pleasure in casting down imaginations and can tell you nothing, especially in Finland, is free.

We talk about "paid by the State" but what does that mean? In Finland, like the rest of Scandinavia, we have a "comprehensive" welfare system, which means that pretty much every one of us gets some welfare benefits whether or not we want or need them, creating a wide-ranging dependency on the State. In addition to "free" education, students in Finland receive 300-335 euros per month "student money", 200 euros per month housing support (which is why many young Finns already live independently though studying in the same city where their parents live), meal subsidies and loans of up to 400 euros per month secured by "the State".

None of this is "free". And it is quite common in Finland to remain a university student a decade or longer, with the average age of graduation being 29. One-third of Finnish students are over 30 compared to the EU average of 17 per cent.

So, who pays? Those approximately 70-80 per cent of us who are foolish enough (and fortunate enough?) to quit studying and go to work, though over 50 per cent of us don't find work that really matches our studies. Finland has quite a long list of taxes, including earned income tax, indirect income tax, dividend and capital gain taxes, corporate taxes, property taxes, VAT (24 per cent!), excise ("sinners") taxes, inheritance tax, pension fees and even a church tax.

My own income tax is 30 per cent and I wonder just how much tax I pay when all these taxes are added together, but I suspect it's 50-70 per cent, meaning I mainly work in serfdom and servitude to "the State". I have my own business which separately pays hundreds of thousands of euros per year so the State can give away all these things for "free".

I'm not complaining (well, maybe a little...). I think as far as bureaucracies go, Finland's is comparably well run and the Scandinavian ideals would be worthy goals if they weren't just so, well... idealistic. Anyway, for those of you enjoying a "free" education in Finland, I urge you, for the sake of those ideals, to complete your studies quickly, go to work (preferably in Finland!) and pay back in taxes at least that which you've taken out of the system so it can continue to survive and so that future generations can also enjoy this wonderful, "free" education.

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