President of NUS-USI, Fergal McFerran, said: “This is a staggering drop in the number of students accessing Further Education here. Our FE colleges are quite often a lifeline to many within society who want to improve their life chances.
“Ahead of the first budget of the new Northern Ireland Executive we call on Ministers to make clear that they are committed to investing in tertiary education and in students. They must deliver a significant increase in the funding allocation for tertiary education and student financial support in the new budget.
“How on earth can the Executive try to increase job creation through any cut in corporation tax when the fuel for the economy, ie. skills, is potentially decreasing with this decrease in the number of students going to FE colleges?
“I want to send out the strongest message to the Executive that the student movement is watching and waiting on what will be included in the budget. The Executive need to build skills to build hope and economic prosperity here.
“The Executive simply must address this drop and ensure that this trend is reversed immediately. Northern Ireland’s greatest resource is its people and government must invest in them to boost skills and grow the the economy.”