The cost of no education

While I’m feeling a bit over numbered … you know, you’ve seen so many statistics that they begin to fail to mean anything, there was a good piece in the Trib on Monday.

The editorial discusses the costs – both personal and societal – of dropping out of high school.While the reasons for dropping out are myriad, the consequences are pretty standard. According to the Chicago Tribune “dropouts collect about $71,000 more in benefits such as food stamps than they pay in taxes over a lifetime. By comparison, high school graduates make a positive net contribution of $236,000. And college graduates chip in even more: $885,000.”


From negative $71k to positive $236k … just with finishing high school. Wow.

There’s lots more numbers and I recommend you check them out but beyond that particular contribution/drain statistic, I was most taken with one teacher who mentioned that while students don’t drop out until high school, the school loses them in third grade.

The article doesn’t go into it, but third grade is pretty much the last time that reading is taught in a regular classroom. Kids who haven’t yet cracked the code on reading by the time they reach fourth grade are pretty much out of luck, unless they wind up in a special program somewhere.

It would be a long road to go if you couldn’t quite read at the end of third grade, as expectations will get higher and abilities remain the same or get lower.

I don’t know that all drop outs have issues with literacy – that is another area with scary, large numbers that tie out to loss all around – but it certainly seems to be one of the issues.

We can’t afford – truly and literally  – afford – for students to drop out, whether we are talking mentally dropping out in third grade or physically dropping out in high school. Let’s keep kids in school and give them their best chance for success. And let’s work together to ensure that what they get during their time at school is valuable, giving them the skills they need to succeed through high school and beyond.


Categories: General


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