Iowa has one of the lowest high school dropout rates in the nation, around 11-percent, but a study gauges the impact of coaxing more teens to stay in school to earn their diplomas.
Jason Amos, spokesman for the Alliance for Excellent Education, says Iowa’s Class of 2010 saw about eight-thousand dropouts. Amos says if that number was cut to four-thousand dropouts, the results would be remarkable.
Amos says, “By cutting the dropout rate in half, those new graduates, we figure about 4,000 new high school graduates, would earn about $39-million more in an average year compared to their likely earnings without a diploma.”
The best economic stimulus, he says, is a high school diploma. From the individual student to the banker, car salesman or realtor, Amos says everyone wins when more students graduate from high school.
“With that additional earnings, they would spend about $29-million, so that’s money injected into the local economy,” Amos says. “They would invest about $9.6-million and by that additional spending and investment, you would be able to create about 200 new jobs and increase the gross state product by as much as $45-million.”
The study finds those additional Iowa graduates would spend $75-million more on home purchases than what they would likely spend without a diploma and they would boost state tax revenues by nearly four-million dollars.
While Iowa’s graduation rates are already among the country’s best, Amos says a greater emphasis on getting students to attain the goal would bring significant results. So how does Iowa improve on the numbers?
“Students aren’t necessarily going to walk into the main office of a high school and say, ‘I’m at risk of dropping out’ or ‘I’m going to drop out,’ but they are going to give some signs, sometimes as early as the 6th grade, that they’re at risk of dropping out,” Amos says.
Those signs include failing grades, poor attendance and discipline problems. A U-S Census Bureau report finds a high school dropout earned an average of $21,023 in 2008, compared to $31,283 for a high school graduate and $58,613 for an individual with a bachelor’s degree. Another report from the U-S Department of Labor found high school dropouts are more than three times as likely to be unemployed than college graduates.
The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, D-C-based policy, research, and advocacy organization. Learn more at: www.all4ed.org