DROP-OUT rates for college students from the most deprived backgrounds in Scotland have been slashed over the past few years, according to new figures.
Official statistics show three-quarters of students from the 20% most deprived postcodes stayed on at college last year - a nine percentage point improvement since 2006/07.
The Scottish Funding Council figures for 2012/13 also show successful completion of courses by those from the most deprived post codes has risen 12 percentage points from 2006/07 to 63%.
The improvement comes after a concerted effort by colleges to give extra support to students from deprived backgrounds as they begin courses.
Individuals from such backgrounds can be faced with a range of personal issues such as broken homes, little financial support and a lack of family awareness of the importance of education which make staying on at college harder.
Michael Russell, the education secretary, said: "The latest college figures present evidence of the progress we're making and are a clear indication that in the last six years, significantly more college students from our most deprived areas are not only staying on their course, but successfully completing it.
"The Scottish Government has ensured that our colleges are fully focused on delivering courses for young people that will enhance their chances of employment, in turn aiding economic growth."
John Henderson, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, also welcomed the improvements - but said more targeted funding could produce even better results.
He said: "The increase in completion and attainment rates among full-time students from Scotland's most deprived areas is good news for those students and for the Scottish economy. However, more needs to be done, particularly to widen opportunities to access higher education.
"Colleges and universities must have the necessary resources to work even more closely with schools and employers in deprived areas."
Gordon Maloney, president of student body NUS Scotland, also called for the sector to go further.
"Colleges do a fantastic job of getting people from more disadvantaged backgrounds into further and higher education, and there should be an equal focus on supporting them to stay in once they're there, throughout the duration of their course, and beyond into work.
"Every college should be setting themselves ambitious targets on student success."
One college that has worked hard in recent years to improve the retention and attainment of students from deprived backgrounds is the newly-merged Glasgow Clyde College.
Margaret Gilroy, the college's director of access, said one development was providing extra support with basic skills such as literacy and numeracy to build confidence.
Another project offers resilience training which looks at what factors cause people to drop out, from sleeping in and missing classes to not having enough money for a bus fare or dealing with an upsetting scenario in the home.
Mrs Gilroy said: "These young people are used to rejection and for many there is a fear they are not good enough so they look for a reason to be rejected. They set themselves up to fail.
"The training shows they don't have to leave if something happens and there are ways of dealing with those things.
"It can be as basic as phoning the college if they are going to be late, as you would do if you were at work, rather than just not bothering to turn up.
"They are simple things but they make a big difference."