#149. Just How Much Does Graduation Matter?

Posted on | The Agurban
Just How Much Does Graduation Matter?

Last week we discussed the importance of graduating from high school. We mentioned that studies have shown that high school graduates will earn upwards of $200,000 more in their lifetime than those workers who did not complete high school. But what does this mean to your community?

The Alliance for Excellent Education has put a value on the economic benefit to a state’s economy. According to their findings, if the high school dropouts from Illinois’ class of 2007 had instead earned diplomas along with their classmates, the state’s economy could have benefited from an additional $11 billion in wages over these students’ lifetimes.

The Alliance’s brief argues that dropouts drain the state and nation’s economy by lowering tax revenues and increasing the cost of social programs.

John L. Hagen, Economic Development Director with the City of Surprise, AZ, told us he has made this point for almost ten years to many economic development and education groups. He makes his distinction between high school graduates and college graduates.

John states, “The difference in lifetime earnings between a person graduating with a bachelor’s degree and a high school diploma is $900,000. Between a bachelor’s degree and a high school dropout it’s $1.1 million. So not only is it the right thing to do to encourage everyone who can to go to college, it actually makes business sense. Next time you hear the phrase, “well, not everyone belongs in college” applied to a particular student, realize that that talk may have cost our community $900,000 if the student is discouraged from trying to go on to higher education. Furthermore, if 25% of ninth graders in a class of 500 fail to graduate from high school, that will cost our community over $137,000,000 in direct lifetime income over the next 40 years–not to mention the multiplier effects that would as much as double that number. Make the same mistake for 10 years, and it will cost our community over $2 billion in less than 50 years. Imagine a local economy with $2 billion less in local cash registers. Does it matter if kids graduate and go to college? You bet it does–to each of them and to everyone else in your community.”

“Each class of high school dropouts damages the economy, says Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “Congress must take action to support states and districts (to) put reforms into place that will allow all students, at all levels, to receive the assistance they need to be successful in school and graduate. The economic future and security of the nation depends on it.”

As a community, what are you doing to help your students succeed?