Children having to cope with parents with drink or drug addiction had little chance of finding a job, far less going on to college.
For many having to deal with chaotic lifestyles at home, even getting to school could be an insurmountable hurdle.
But over the past six years, the tide has turned and the city is slowly but surely clawing its way from the bottom of school attainment levels.
A recent report shows Glasgow is now placed 28 out of 32 local authorities when it comes to the percentage of their pupils going into higher education.
The new figures show that last year, almost a third of school leavers went on to university or college - the highest figure ever recorded.
The increase of 2.1% is even more remarkable as across Scotland, the number of teenagers going into higher education has fallen in the past year.
Of those in Glasgow who did go on to higher education, 20% live in some of the most deprived parts of the city.
Unsurprisingly, 64% of school leavers from the least deprived areas continue their studies at university or college.
Meanwhile attendance levels in the city's schools have increased, exam results have improved and the number of pupils excluded from class has fallen.
Glasgow has not achieved that turnaround overnight and education bosses and teachers have spent almost a decade helping young people in the city believe they have a future.
Their first battle has been the deprivation which still blights large parts of the city. Education bosses insist that has not been an excuse for bad results in the past but a brutal reality.
But it is a reality they are determined to overcome and the work starts as soon as children start school with nurture classes set up for those who need additional help and support.
They were established around 13 years ago and are now beginning to bear fruit with those first youngsters now 18-year-olds and ready for a new future.
Many children in Glasgow have no experience of parents or siblings going on to further or higher education and have in the past ruled out university or college.
But now they can spend their sixth year at school in a Caledonian University hub where they can study for advanced highers and get a taste of student life.
Glasgow's exam results are unlikely to ever match the results of affluent councils but thanks to the hard work of teaching staff they are heading in the right direction.