Jul 31, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

The UK’s Office for Fair Access (OFFA) has revealed that first-year dropout levels for university students from disadvantaged families recently reached all-time highs, as reported by BBC.com. Here’s a closer look at the figures, along with measures underway to reverse this troubling trend.

More Students, Higher Dropout Rates

According to the most recent data, dropout rates among young, full-time, disadvantaged undergraduates rose from 8.2 percent in the 2013-2014 academic year to 8.8 percent in the 2014-2015 academic year. Conversely, less than five percent of students from privileged backgrounds ceased their studies.

Says the report, "The gap between the non-continuation rates of the most advantaged and most disadvantaged students has widened in the past year. While more disadvantaged young people are in higher education than ever before, the numbers of those students leaving before completing their studies has risen for the second year in a row."

The report further revealed that non-continuation rates were particularly high for black students -- more than 1.5 times higher than for their white and Asian peers.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon may have significant repercussions. Continues OFFA, “Higher education can be a transformational experience that opens doors to rewarding careers and social mobility, but this is only the case if students achieve successful outcomes."

Correcting Course

OFFA identified addressing the needs of part-time students are critical to reversing the trend, while Universities Minister Jo Johnson cited the need to increased accountability among universities. "The Higher Education and Research Act will build on this progress by requiring providers, including the most selective institutions, to publish application, dropout and attainment data broken down by gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background, holding them to account for their performance and helping students to make informed choices about where they go to study," he said.

There is a bright side, however. The report also determined that universities are investing more in widening participation in an effort to give all students equal opportunities to complete their studies and benefit from increased social mobility.

Read more about studying in the UK.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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