THE private education sector has experienced a dramatic recovery with profits up as much as 40pc and enrolments up as much as 15pc on the back of rising costs at mainstream colleges, demand from mature students and the introduction of flexible fee-payment plans.
Sector bosses also say that parents are increasingly willing to pay extra to secure an employment future for their children, particularly for practical courses which can be more employment-oriented than those offered at regular colleges.
Dublin-based Griffith College has just announced a 40pc profit increase to €1.2m while enrolments are up by 15pc. College president Diarmuid Hegarty said that in the boom years parents would pay the entire fee -- often as high as €5,000 -- on their credit cards. "These days credit card limits have been slashed, so two years ago we introduced a system by which 40pc of the fee is paid upfront and the rest is paid over through six further instalments through the academic year.
"The increase in charges by mainstream colleges has also been instrumental in driving more students to us."
The minister for education has already indicated that university fees are to increase to around €3,000 per annum by 2015 while a new recommendation by the Higher Education Authority has suggested this could double to €6,000.
Meanwhile, Independent Colleges said that it has experienced a 19pc increase in applications this year following a 15pc hike last year. A spokesperson added: "We have noticed a certain demographic seeing to either retrain or upskill and many of these candidates already hold undergraduate qualifications."