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The National High School Dropout Problem

  • Rob Noroian
  • February 27, 2017

In a 2014 article, Politico gleefully proclaimed that the national graduation rate could hit 90% by 2020.

But is that really something to be proud of? If 1 in every 10 students is failing to graduate, we will still be allowing hundreds of thousands of Americans to fall through the cracks each year. That hardly sounds like a tolerable outcome, much less an ideal for which to strive.

By dropping out, these students are denying themselves opportunities for higher learning and higher earning. Poverty rates are twice as high for dropouts when compared to college graduates. Even when compared to their peers who successfully completed high school, dropouts earn $260,000 less over their lifetime.

But dropouts affect more than their own lives; they also put a strain on the national economy. Dropouts are more likely to be jobless, homeless, and dependent on an already strained social services safety net.

Since that article was written, the US has failed to make significant strides towards a 90% graduation rate. Instead, we have been hovering just above 80%. That means that every single school day, over 18,000 students drop out—adding up to 3.3 million per year. For reference, that is more than the entire population of the state of Utah. In total, there are nearly 71 million Americans over the age of 18 who’ve never earned a high school diploma.

Over the next few weeks we will be posting blogs that delve into:

  • The national and societal costs of these dropouts;
  • The high cost of serving at-risk students; and
  • How dropout recovery programs can help solve the dropout problem.