The recent rise in mature student applications through the CAO may be a false dawn, according to the National Adult Learning Organisation AONTAS.
AONTAS Director Berni Brady said that many adults who applied through the CAO may not be in the position financially to pursue a third level education.
Measures introduced in Budget 2010 will take effect from September, and mean that those qualifying for the Back to Education Allowance scheme will no longer be eligible for the student maintenance grant.
“For an adult the maintenance grant can mean up to €6,690 per year, and is vital in terms of providing additional finance for someone who may be struggling with the costs of education,” Ms Brady said.
“From what we are hearing, some adults are seriously reconsidering their applications as the removal of the maintenance grant will mean that a third level education is simply unaffordable and may not be in a position to take up a place if accepted.”
Ms Brady called for a “more unified approach and strategy” towards the challenge of upskilling, retraining and responding to the needs of a growing number of people experiencing unemployment and redundancy.
“With these new changes to the grants system, it amounts to giving with one hand and taking away with the other,” she said.
A total of 71,869 applications were received by the CAO this year, a 6% increase on 2009 figures.