CAO still makes nearly €1m profit despite reducing fees
THE cash-rich Central Applications Office (CAO) continues to make significant profits in spite of reducing college application fees last year, new figures show.
According to new accounts lodged to the Companies Office, pre-tax profits recorded by the CAO last year totalled €955,103 – a 28pc drop on the €1.325m recorded in 2011.
This follows revenues at the CAO last year decreasing from €3.1m to €2.98m. The directors of the CAO attribute the drop in income to a decrease in application fee prices in 2012.
Highlighting the risks and uncertainties facing the CAO, its directors state that "the possible reintroduction of third-level fees may reduce applicant numbers. Also, the increase in emigration may reduce the level of non-standard applicants applying for third-level education".
On the agency's future developments, the directors state "new third-level institutions continue to join the CAO system. The company is extending the information collected regarding the socio-economic backgrounds of applications for the third level institutions".
Salaries at the Galway-based CAO increased marginally from €1.38m to €1.385m. The office increased its staff levels from 29 to 32, with 20 of the 32 being temporary workers.
Last year, the CAO handled 76,716 applications centrally for 43 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Ireland, with online activity accounting for more than 98pc of applications.
The figures show that the healthy profits of the last four years resulted in the CAO having €4.8m in cash in hand and at bank at the end of last year.
The CAO is a private company, established in 1977 by the universities and the Higher Education Authority.
The figures show that while the CAO's income declined last year, its expenditure increased by 10pc from €2.09m to €2.29m.
As a result, the agency's operating profit last year dropped by 32pc from €1.038m to €688,627.