Anna Lo MLA said: “With a new academic year starting in just over a month, now would be a good time for colleges to re-examine the issue of concessions for older people taking courses. I would appeal to colleges and the Minister to again seek legal advice to see if any further progress can be made on this issue.
“There are an excellent range of courses provided at our local colleges and it would be a real shame if older people were not allowed to be given concessionary rates on them.
“The number of students of pensionable age has been falling steadily over the past few years, from 16,978 in 2004-05 to 14,048 in 2006-07. I am quite sure that the withdrawal of concessionary fees in an economic downturn will reduce those numbers further. A 30-week course used to cost £76 in some colleges. However, without the concession, pensioners may now have to pay double that amount.
“We need to be doing everything possible to promote lifelong learning and provide opportunities for older people. Taking a course can provide a new outlook and challenge, and the value of these factors must not be underestimated.”