Dropouts cost state

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By Ralph Damiani

New Mexico’s economy could have been $3.1 billion richer if all the state’s students who started high school in 2003 had graduated last spring, according to a report by an education advocacy group.

The Alliance for Excellent Education, in a report titled, “The High Cost of High School Dropouts: What the Nation Pays for Inadequate High Schools,” estimated what students who did not graduate could have earned over their lifetimes with more education.Even if we didn’t have these numbers, it is clear that the cost of students dropping out is great – in both money and social ills.The U.S. Census Bureau says the average annual income for a high school dropout in 2005 was nearly $10,000 less than that of a high school graduate.Census figures show dropouts made an average of $17,299 in 2005, while high school graduates made $26,933, people with an associate’s degree made $36,645 and college graduates averaged $52,671.The study determined the number of dropouts using ninth-grade enrollment figures for 2003-2004 and the 2007 high school graduation rate, which was then multiplied by the $260,000 estimated lifetime earnings difference between a dropout and a high school graduate.The alliance argues in the report that dropouts drain the economy by lowering tax revenues and increasing the cost of social programs. High school graduates, it said, make higher wages, are healthier, are less likely to become parents as teenagers, commit crimes or rely on government health care.This is hard to argue with. But the problem is, what is the solution? How to stop the bleeding is not an easy step to take – or even know.