Friday, September 3, 2010

Each year, more than a million students drop out of public high schools. That’s roughly one in three - a staggering number.

Failing graduation rates contribute to dampening our economy in ways that affect us all every day. This broader impact was revealed in a recent Alliance for Excellent Education study. In analyzing the nation’s 50 largest cities, the alliance calculated the positive economic impact we could achieve were dropout rates to be cut by half.

Sixteen of the Washington area’s 157 high schools are veritable dropout factories where two in three students underperform and one in four don’t graduate on time.

Halving the number of dropouts in a single high school class would result in tremendous economic benefit. If half these students graduated, they likely would earn as much as $157 million more in combined earnings in an average year compared to their likely earnings as dropouts. Increased earnings likely would allow them to spend a total of $99 million more and invest a total of $43 million more in an average year. This likely would be enough to produce 750 more jobs annually and increase the gross regional product by as much as $179 million per year by the time they reached the middle of their careers.

Imagine also the impact on the tax base. Increased wages and spending would boost state and local tax revenue by as much as $22 million in an average year.

At a time when communities are struggling, it should be encouraging that one long-term solution for economic recovery is at hand. By acting together, we can ensure that more young people proudly emerge from high school armed with diplomas.


Vice president, State Farm Insurance

Fairfax, Va.

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