2 Universidade Europeia (PORTUGAL)
3 Universidade de Évora (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN18 Proceedings
Publication year: 2018
Pages: 1886-1892
ISBN: 978-84-09-02709-5
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2018.0545
Conference name: 10th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 2-4 July, 2018
Location: Palma, Spain
Drop-out is a complex phenomenon defined in the literature as a voluntary process in which students withdraw from higher education without completing the academic programme in which they are enrolled in (Tinto, 1975) and without completing their studies at a later time (Castaño, Gallón, Gómez, & Vásquez, 2008). As a complex phenomenon, drop-out is influenced by several factors such as individual, institutional, academic and socioeconomic. Socioeconomic factors, which are the focus of this study, include parents’ education; economic dependence and financial support (income or, instead, its lack or insufficiency, particularly at the beginning of the schooling career); social class or status; or the country’s macroeconomic context (Breier, 2010; Lassibille, & Gómez, 2008).

Previous research, conducted across the European Union (Quinn, 2013), has shown that coming from a poor socio-economic background is the most significant factor leading a student to drop-out. This factor seems to weigh more heavily than others. Parents’ educational background seems to also explain drop-out in some countries. For instance, Italian undergraduates whose parents only have compulsory schooling are more likely to drop-out (Aina, 2012). Quinn (2013) also found that part-time students are more likely to drop out than full-time ones, e.g. because of working long hours.

This study aims to examine whether drop-out rates among Portuguese higher education students are influenced by the socioeconomic background, operationalised here through the following three variables: parents’ educational level, existence of financial support and student working status. Information was collected from four public universities, about the students who enrolled in the Academic year 2009/10 (N=14.039) and the analysis was done 5 years later. Drawing on previous literature, the hypothesis to be tested is that the higher the students’ socioeconomic background, the lower the likelihood of dropout.

Findings show that students with financial support tend to drop-out less, suggesting that such political measures with social and financial positive impact can counteract the negative effects of a poor economic background. The most striking finding is that students whose parents only have middle school are the ones with lowest drop-out, which contradicts our hypothesis. Working students are facing a higher risk of drop-out.

[1] Aina, C. (2013). Parental background and university dropout in Italy. Higher Education, 65(4), 437-456.
[2] Breier, M. (2010). From ‘financial considerations’ to ‘poverty’: Towards a reconceptualization of the role of finances in higher education student drop out. Higher Education 60 (6): 657–670.
[3] Castaño, E., Gallón, S., Gómezy,K. and Vásquez, J.. 2008. Analysis of the factors associated with the drop-out rate of students in higher education: A case study. Revista De Educacion 345: 255–280.
[4] Lassibille, G., and Gómez L. N. (2008). Why do higher education students drop out? Evidence from Spain. Education Economics 16 (1): 89–105.
[5] Quinn, J., (2013). Drop-out and Completion in Higher Education in Europe among students from under-represented groups. [Accessed 15 March 2018].
[6] Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45: 89–125.
Drop-out, socioeconomic background, higher education.