The complexities of public funding are reflected in the cash settlement for further education, announced by the Scottish Secretary last week.
The Government says that FE is to have an additional Pounds 8 million next year, whereas the Association of Scottish Colleges counters that the reality is a Pounds 2.1 million cash drop from this year's grant.
The increase in FE funding to Pounds 350 million includes an estimated Pounds 63.4 million in tuition fees to be collected from students, according to the ASC. It assumes the colleges will recover this money in full. Bob Kay, the ASC chairman, commented: "We all remember the problems local authorities faced in the collection of the poll tax. Colleges will have similar problems in the collection of the student poll tax."
The Scottish Office has been able to find Pounds 3 million extra in "new money" for FE, although that covers capital and revenue spending. The remaining Pounds 5 million of the increase is tuition fee income from students on higher education courses in the colleges, as a result of the charges being introduced from the next academic year in September.
Mr Kay said any increase was welcome but the reality was a cash fall of Pounds 2.1 million. He acknowledged, however, that the previous Government had proposed a Pounds 5 million reduction for 1998-99.