FE loans create shortfalls

Some providers are facing funding shortfalls of up to £750,000 for adults with extra needs, claims the National Association for Managers of Student Services (NAMSS).

As part of the new 24+ advanced learner loans regime for those wanting to take up an FE course, providers were distributed  £50m over two years to cover extra needs such as childcare, travel costs and extra tuition.

But many have reported less cash in their bursary allocation for 2013/14 compared with the demand they faced in the current academic year.

Association chair Jim Busher, who has written to the Skills Funding Agency with his concerns, said some providers “will need to turn away” applicants for the new FE loans because “they cannot support their childcare or additional learning support costs”.

Many colleges are wrestling with this potential shortfall and the impact it could have on applicants.”

A table of figures he shared with FE Week showed the shortfalls that 20 colleges were facing.

The Manchester College confirmed it was expecting a £750,000 shortfall — its 24+ bursary allocation was £250,000, although its demand for additional needs for 2012/13 was £1m. Principal Jack Carney said he was “concerned” the college would not be able to offer learners the level of support they previously had, “impacting on their ability to participate and achieve”.

Mr Busher’s research also suggested one college in the Midlands expected a £213,000 shortfall, while another in the far north anticipated a £120,000 shortfall.

Lakes College West Cumbria, where Mr Busher heads student support services, faces a £66,000 shortfall.

“Many colleges are wrestling with this potential shortfall and the impact it could have on applicants,” he said.

“NAMSS would urge that the agency revisits the bursary allocation, if only to mitigate against a significant number of colleges asking for additional funds.”

Jerry White, director of planning and performance at City College Norwich, which faces a £75,000 deficit, told FE Week that the types of courses that were loans-funded were “likely to have a very disproportionate number of users who need additional support.

“Adult learners are more likely to be on big full-time courses like Access to HE,” he said. “They have disproportionate requirements for childcare and tend to come from backgrounds where they may need a lot more learner support.”

Mr White said he believed the fund “should not be ring-fenced” but should be put back with the mainstream learners’ pot.

“Then we could go between the pots if we had excess demand,” he said.

As a result of the shortfall, his college expected to “incur costs” that it couldn’t claim back.

When asked if the agency would review the bursary allocations, a spokesperson said the bursary fund had been “developed in consultation with the sector”.

She said: “The agency will work with the sector during the 2013/14 academic year to monitor the take-up of bursary funding,
ensuring that as far as possible, available funding reflects demand.”