The Federation of Estonian Student Unions says students will take a financial hit from the new conditions for receiving supplementary allowances.
Eimar Veldre, head of the organization, is critical of the government's approach.
"The shortcoming of the plan is that only a marginal share of the students will start receiving the 135-euro allowance, less than 10 percent according to our calculations," he told uudised.err.ee. "Thus, most students would not get the allowance and they will also suffer financially from being deprived of the opportunity to work."
The Ministry of Education maintains that 37 percent of first-year students will receive the allowance and notes that full-time students can still work part-time. Students admitted as full-time students will no longer be required to pay tuition.
The Cabinet wants to restrict allowances to those who earn over 200 euros a month and who complete the equivalent of full-time credit hours every semester. The Federation of Estonian Student Unions has pushed for a softer approach, where household income is taken into consideration and where students would only have to complete 85 percent of the full-time load each semester to remain eligible.
Veldre said that if students are required to complete 100 percent of the required credits each semester, they would live in constant fear that their university would start charging them tuition if they fall a few credit hours short. "I would like to see how many students there are who can study well while working full-time," said Veldre.
The number of students who work full-time is 51 percent in Estonia, among Europe's highest figures, according to a 2008 study by Praxis, a policy research institute.