USI granted additional €1 million for Student Assistant Fund

Jay Gorman

USI announced that an additional €1 million was to be given to students of education.

An additional €1 million is being given to the Student Assistant fund for professional Masters in Education students.

Minister of Education and Skills Joe McHugh announced on January 14th that there will be €1 million given to the SAF for PME students suffering financially.

It will be “a significant boost in financial supports for student teachers who may be experiencing financial difficulties” according to McHugh.

Around 16,000 students benefit annually from the student assistant fund. The additional €1 million exclusively for PME students brings the total to €10.1 million in 2019.

According to the Higher Education Authority, the funding was allocated based on the number of students in the PME courses, around 2,000 last year. Funding is given to institutions based on their size and applications are made through them.

Individual students have responsibility to apply through their institution if they believe they are eligible.

A two-year PME program can total up to €12,000 for tuition alone and the SAF is not available to students as assistance for tuition or registration fees. The €12,000 doesn’t include any additional costs for reading material or work placement.

USI president Síona Cahill cited the financial barrier as one of the biggest deterrents to people looking to enter the teaching profession.

“The high cost of attending Gaeltacht courses, school placement and masters costs are a big deterrent for those entering the profession, and hugely affects diversity of those who end up teaching in our classrooms,” she said in a press release.

She also showed support for the reinstatement of the Gaeltacht grant that was erased in 2012. The required stays in the Gaeltacht cost around €750 per two-week period and are a massive expense for prospective teachers in the programs.

The USI and Conradh na Gaeilge staged a protest early December attempting to convince the Department of Education and Skills to reinstate the grant. However, nothing seems to have to come of this.

This seems to be put in place to help with the current shortage of teachers in the country. An online TUI survey from November and December 2018 found that 99% of principals have found it difficult to recruit new staff.

By Jay Gorman

Image credit: USI