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Graduation Alliance Works to Close $7.4 Trillion High School Diploma Gap

  • Joanna
  • July 7, 2015

New analysis reveals benefits of helping working-age adults achieve graduation

SALT LAKE CITY, July 07, 2015 —While national graduation rates continue to rise, 24.8 million working-age Americans are still without a high school diploma. That reality poses a $7.4 trillion economic problem, as highlighted in a new white paper by Graduation Alliance, experts in career planning and alternative education who help students prepare for employment opportunities.

On average, an individual without a high school diploma will use $70,000 more in public services than taxes paid over a lifetime, according to the white paper. Comparatively, individuals with a high school diploma will contribute $230,000 more on average than they cost. Helping just one student graduate from high school is a $300,000 economic opportunity; helping every student graduate would equate to more than $7 trillion in savings. In addition, compared to those who do not graduate from high school, diploma holders on average:

  • Earn nearly twice as much in lifetime earnings.
  • Incur less than half of annual health care costs, and are more likely to be insured.
  • Are six times less likely to be incarcerated.
  • Are more likely to volunteer, purchase cars and homes, start a business and spend locally.

Despite mutual benefits for graduates and their communities, few states allow K-12 public funding for students over the age of 22, and even fewer dropout recovery programs offer adequate services for those who wish to pursue a high school diploma as adults. The paper outlines several research-based recommendations for programs looking to reengage working-age adults, including flexible scheduling, multi-tiered support services, career exploration, job training and the ability to offer a high school diploma rather than a GED.

“More than ever, today’s economic opportunities require that individuals earn a diploma and develop 21st-century skills,” said Ray Kelly, CEO of Graduation Alliance. “Our expanded services support working-age adults as they reach their educational and career goals, ultimately closing this economic gap.”

For more information and individual success stories, download the full white paper here.

About Graduation Alliance

Graduation Alliance strengthens communities, states and the economy by preparing and empowering tomorrow’s workforce. Through highly effective postsecondary planning, alternative education and training programs, Graduation Alliance ensures every student has an opportunity to succeed during and after high school. For more information about Graduation Alliance, visit

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