By Bob Wise, President, Alliance for Excellent Education, www.all4ed.org
All Americans—whether they have a direct connection with schools or not—have a personal stake in ensuring that every child becomes a high school graduate, prepared for success in college, the modern workplace, and life. Clearly, the students themselves suffer the most direct impact from dropping out of school, but the economy, social fabric, and security of the nation, states, and local communities are also affected.
Consider the 1.2 million students from the Class of 2008 who dropped out. Had those students graduated with their classmates, the nation’s economy would have benefited from an additional $319 billion in income over their lifetimes. Were the nation to cut its dropout rate in half, U.S. taxpayers could reap $45 billion annually. Indeed, in this time of declining stock markets, higher inflation, and rising unemployment, the best economic stimulus package for the economy is a high school diploma.
The stunning possible economic benefit to the nation of improving outcomes for academically undeserved youth should be a wake-up call for the nation. No longer can America afford to lose more than one million students every year. Already, the United States has started to slip in the international race to produce a workforce prepared for the demands of a global economy, falling from first in high school graduation rates to thirteenth.
Ensuring that all secondary students are prepared to succeed in college and work is a giant step in the right direction. Not only because American students must achieve at increasingly higher levels to compete for good-paying jobs, but because more high school graduates will benefit themselves and society for decades to come.