College chiefs have presented the government with a £2.5 billion spending list that they say is needed over the next five years to recruit more students into further and higher education.
The extra money - which amounts to a 55 per cent increase in the further education budget - covers colleges' role in widening participation for 14 to 19-year-olds. In higher education, it covers raising standards and improving financial support for students.
The Association of Colleges' submission to the government's comprehensive spending review says that the expansion of higher education will rely on the work of colleges, which already supply more than 40 per cent of home entrants and teach 11 per cent of higher education students.
Colleges will also be expected to achieve ambitious expansion plans in further education and to play a key role in attaining new goals to be outlined in a forthcoming government green paper.
The AoC's paper says that real funding per student in further education has not risen above mid-1990s levels.
Developing partnerships with employers to create high-quality vocational and work-based learning programmes for 14 to 16-year-olds will require a new funding model and investment amounting to more than £700 million up to 2005-06, the paper says. Raising 16-to-19 participation levels to those of Britain's industrial competitors will cost more than £320 million a year.
Harmonising school sixth-form and college funding to equalise 16-to-19 funding would add another £700 million.
To achieve the government's target of 50 per cent participation in higher education among the under-30s by 2010, more people would need to gain level-3 qualifications. The AoC estimates that this could cost an extra £187 million a year by 2005-06.
Another expense would be rolling out the educational maintenance allowances scheme, which has proved successful in pilot schemes at widening participation and lowering dropout rates.
The AoC suggests that launching EMAs on a national basis from next year could cost £350 million a year.
Savings could be made to help cover the cost of extra spending by reducing bureaucracy and administration in the post-16 learning and skills system, the AoC suggests.