By Ruth McKee
A sharp drop in student numbers suggests students are struggling to cope without the Education Maintenance Allowance, [EMA], a new report suggests.
The report, published by the Association of Colleges (AoC), shows that half of the colleges surveyed have reported a drop in enrolment figures this September, with some FE colleges showing a dramatic decline of between five and 15%.
The AOC are pointing to the withdrawal of EMA, which was brought in under Labour to help 16-19 year-olds with the costs of further education, as the main cause of the falling numbers.
"The AoC conducted some detailed research into enrolment figures this year in order to understand the impact that recent government initiatives and changes in funding have had on colleges and their students," said Martin Doel, chief executive at the Association of Colleges.
The government scrapped the EMA as part of last year's controversial education bill, which caused widespread anger among students who took to the streets in a bid to stop its passage through the commons.
The National Union of Students (NUS) claims that the drop in further education enrolments proves the government has abandoned 'vulnerable' students.
"Ministers were warned over and over again by teachers, students, parents, economists and college leaders that scrapping EMA would harm participation in further education and now they are reaping what they sowed," said Toni Pearce, NUS vice-president for further education.
The AoC intends to repeat the survey in Spetember 2012 to identify any possible year-on-year trends.