EDUCATION bosses today said they were committed to helping the poorest students despite a shortfall in funding.
City of Sunderland College says its bursary funding from the Government, the new scheme to replace the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), is lower than originally expected. However, this had been anticipated.
Nigel Harrett, vice-principal for curriculum and student support, said: “Despite receiving a lower level of Bursary Funding for 16 to 19-year-olds than was originally expected, we remain thoroughly committed to supporting our students.
“For this coming academic year 2011/12, our college has received £517,000 from the Government.
“Owing to the financial constraints facing all colleges and universities at present, we anticipated that a shortfall in funding may arise and therefore we have allocated additional budget to ensure that we are able to meet the needs of our students.
“Our bursary scheme is focused on providing travel to college centres, meals and educational equipment to help our students benefit from the college experience and achieve their goals.”
Nationally, the Association of Colleges said many further education establishments did not believe they had been given enough money under the bursary scheme to meet the needs of their students.
Earlier this year, there were protests and rallies over the scrapping of the EMA, which amounted to about £500million to the poorest students.
City of Sunderland College principal Angela O’Donaghue was among those against axing the EMA, saying is would have a dire impact on the city, which already has a high level of deprivation.
The college estimated the number of 17-year-olds not in education on Wearside could rise to as high as 25 per cent, because of the lack of financial help.
In March, the Department of Education announced the bursary scheme fund would be £180million per academic year from September.
But it recently confirmed that only £115.5million would be made available this year, rising to £180million in future years.
The department claimed the full amount is not needed because so many students would benefit from a £194million transitional fund, that will see some who already get EMA continuing to receive payments until next September.
Under the new bursary scheme 12,000 of the most vulnerable 16 to 19-year-olds will be guaranteed £1,200 a year.
Schools and colleges will distribute the rest of the money to students who face financial barriers to staying in education.