If you're a student in Gwynedd heading towards GCSEs and fancy going on to higher education you won’t be stuck for somewhere to take A-levels. All the county’s seven comprehensive schools run sixth-forms.

In Powys, 11 of 12 secondary schools have sixth-forms. Of Carmarthenshire’s 12 secondaries, eight offer sixth-form courses; in Pembrokeshire, five of six comprehensives do the same.

Then there’s Ceredigion. For now, there are sixth-forms at all six secondary schools. But maybe not for long. Because if a hare-brained, and frankly callous, county council plan is allowed to gain traction, there may soon remain not a single sixth-form across the entire county.

This insane proposal, waved through by the county council’s malleable cabinet, basically offers two choices, both unacceptable. Close some sixth-forms. Or the whole lot.

This second would mean that, at a stroke, hundreds of Ceredigion teenagers a year could lose out on higher education, putting a blight on their intellectual, cultural and social development and seriously undermining career prospects.

The repercussions could be life-changing. Futures full of brightness and hope could be snuffed out, to be substituted by pinched existences and foreshortened horizons.

The council’s reckless alternative to the shut-’em-all plan? Establish a grandly-named and vaguely described ‘centre of excellence’, which would be outside the council’s control and probably located at Ysgol Aberaeron. According to a council report, this option is supported by chief executive Eifion Evans. This may cause some hearts to sink.

The report, however, concedes that such seismic undermining of the present system would “destabilise Ceredigion’s current post-16 organisation” and - let’s hope this turns out to be the case - “could create significant local opposition”.

It adds that “staff and unions could see this option as one that would threaten job security and morale. That could create significant uncertainty in the schools.” As a statement of the obvious, this can’t be faulted.

For post-16 students living any appreciable distance from Aberaeron, especially north of Aberystwyth, centralisation in south Ceredigion would make further study impossible. The effective abandonment of such pupils would be the greatest single indictment against a plan in any case heartless and without caring for young people’s futures.

The council pleads poverty. Post-16 schooling, it claims, costs more than it can continue to afford, the £3.7m it gets from a Welsh government grant for that purpose being about £1.5m below what’s needed. “All but one school in Ceredigion have to use core 11-16 funding to varying degrees to maintain their sixth forms”, the report says.

This from an authority with a current year revenue spending budget of £224.2m, a £23.3m increase on 2022-23. An 11.6 per cent rise that is the second highest - after Gwynedd - among the five west Wales counties.

The others all find their sixth-forms affordable - why doesn’t Ceredigion?

Council spending based on population is far lower in Carmarthenshire, Powys and Pembrokeshire than in Ceredigion, but they all manage to pay for post-16 schooling.

Why can’t Ceredigion make ends meet?

One peripheral reason may be that numbers of Ceredigion sixth-form students fell from 535 in 2014-15 to 390 in 2020-21, which in 2022-23 resulted in a £273,000 (7.05 per cent) cut in Welsh government funding for post-16. Clearly, this reduction could be only a temporary setback, though the council’s effective vote of no confidence in the future of sixth-forms will do nothing to encourage students to stay on.

But another, far bigger, reason is the millions paid out every year in interest on accumulated council borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board, a lending facility for local authorities for capital projects.

Latest figures, from June, show the authority with total outstanding debts of £107,811,980 from 40 loans taken out between 1971 and 2020.

In 2022-23 alone, £4.638m was paid out in interest on external borrowing, £510,000 less than the £5.148m budgeted for.

So here’s a happy coincidence. The sum the council calls a “favourable variance” more than matches the £408,519 it estimates to be the current year’s shortfall in the government’s sixth-form grant. No need for them to worry about plugging that gap, then.

Is this the way forward? As with this year, the authority may like to fix a debt interest budget that’s on the generous side, and use the surplus to supplement the sixth-form fund.

This may be seen as a frivolous suggestion. On the other hand, is it any less sound than decisions over expensive capital loans whose legacy may be the current very serious threat to the futures of hundreds of Ceredigion school students?

Think Canolfan Rheidol, the £16m white elephant suite of council offices which echoes with the absence of its hundreds of now home-working staff. A dodgy enterprise from the start, hatched in 2007 behind closed doors, launched without public consultation.

This column has for some time been asking the present administration how much was borrowed to build and equip it, and how much debt remains. It has refused to say. A freedom of information request - which shouldn’t be necessary - looks inevitable.