The average annual income for a high school dropout in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, was almost $10,000 less than that for a high school graduate.
Raising the numbers of students who graduate, therefore, increases overall earnings potential, which, in turn, benefits each state and the nation with increased purchasing power and higher tax receipts, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education.
If the high school dropouts from Michigan's Class of 2008 had instead earned diplomas along with their classmates, the state's economy could have benefited from an additional $12 billion in wages, taxes, and productivity over these students' lifetimes. That's the estimate given in the Alliance's updated brief "The High Cost of High School Dropouts: What the Nation Pays for Inadequate High Schools."
No comprehensive state or national plan exists to help schools boost graduation rates, despite the significant impact on the economy and society.
"Each class of high school dropouts damages the economy," says Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. "If candidates running for federal office are truly committed to saving the nation's economic future, they must commit to saving America's high schools. The best economic stimulus package is to increase the number of students who earn a high school diploma."
The Alliance argues that dropouts drain the state and nation's economy by lowering tax revenues and increasing the cost of social programs. High school graduates, on the other hand, make higher wages, are healthier, and live longer. They are less likely to be teen parents, commit crimes, or rely on government assistance.
By some estimates, about 20,000 Michigan students drop out of school every year.
The Michigan Education Association is holding hearings throughout the state to address and seek solutions to the dropout crisis in Michigan.
In the Upper Peninsula, a hearing is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Eastern time) on Monday, Sept. 11, at Ishpeming High School, 319 E. Division St., Ishpeming.
"Too many students are leaving school before graduating," said MEA President Iris K. Salters. "We need to work together to understand the scope of the problem and to find sustainable solutions."
The hearings are open to the public. Invited guests also will provide testimony about how the dropout crisis affects the economy, families and crime. The findings of these hearings will be presented to political leaders and the public at the Michigan Dropout Prevention Leadership Summit on Oct. 20 in Lansing.