Scottish further education this week welcomed a £19.5 million package to help bring student support in line with that in higher education from the autumn.
Colleges have long complained that their students have less maintenance support, with their families expected to contribute more than is the case for full-time higher education students. Wendy Alexander, Scotland's enterprise and lifelong learning minister, said: "The support that we are announcing will create a level playing field for students on further education and higher education courses."
Full-time further education students aged 18 and over will see the level of their weekly bursary rise next year by between 6 and 15 per cent. Parental contributions will kick in when income reaches £20,000 rather than £18,171, while the income threshold for spouses' contributions will rise from £10,926 to £17,000.
Ms Alexander also announced a £1.6 million young students' retention fund, targeted at full-time students from lower income backgrounds. Success would depend not only on enrolling but also on completing the course, she said.
"The introduction of the young students' retention fund will ensure that colleges can offer help to students from poorer families who are faced with a financial crisis that might otherwise mean them dropping out of their course."
Tom Kelly, chief officer of the Association of Scottish Colleges, said:
"For too long, students on further education courses have been the poor relations in student support. This extra cash will help students who need it most to get started in lifelong learning."