The hidden education equation: The real cost of dropouts

2013-07-24T05:00:00Z The hidden education equation: The real cost of dropouts Casper Star-Tribune Online
July 24, 2013 5:00 am

You’re right if you believe Wyoming spends a lot of money for every student in public schools.

According to the most recent statistics available, Wyoming spends about 50 percent more than other states on average per student.

That statistic might be enough to outrage some.

But, if the true cost was factored in, the real cost might be much higher.

While Wyoming spends a lot on each student, it doesn’t get as much in return as you’d expect. Graduation rates hover around 75 percent, meaning that one in every four students will not successfully complete high school.

Sadly, none of this is a particularly new trend for the state.

And yet, if the true costs could be calculated, our investment as a state would be much higher.

It’s not just the amount of money that Wyoming spends per student. The hidden cost in the education equation is what the state will spend on those who drop out.

On average, men and women who have a high school diploma earn double what those without do. During the course of a career, the difference can measured in tens of thousands of dollars.

Even for those who graduate from high school without any college, the average salary range isn’t exactly robust. Men in Wyoming who have only a high school diploma earn on average about $42,000, women with the same diploma earn about $22,000.

The numbers become sobering when considering what dropouts will likely earn. A man who doesn’t have a high school diploma can expect to earn about $21,000 annually and for women, barely $10,000. The poverty level, as defined by the federal government is $11,490 for every person in the household. When considering the plight of many single mothers who don’t graduate, or young families in which neither parent has a high school diploma, it’s easy to see the toll dropouts place on a community.

It’s a fair assumption to make: Those who don’t graduate from high school will hover near the poverty level, or may be just one paycheck from financial disaster.

This places a huge burden on “safety net” programs, from food assistance to state-financed health care.

If the true costs could actually be captured and factored in, it’s not that Wyoming spends so much per student, it’s how much it will end up paying for the one-in-four students who won’t graduate and will rely on city, county, state and federal services for survival.

We would suggest this vexing problem also contains a solution.

Many Wyoming residents would probably be uncomfortable with the idea of simply throwing more money at schools, hoping the problem will be fixed. Yet, we believe school districts and communities must look for ways to create programs that reach out to at-risk students. In fairness to many districts, they’ve gotten a good start at trying new programs aimed at keeping students in school.

Districts must redouble their efforts at creating programs that identify students whose talents may not exactly align with the standard curriculum. Instead, districts may have to offer alternative programs that provide more technical training, along with the core courses required for graduation. School districts must also look at resources for students already living in poverty, or those who face teen pregnancy.

Beyond just an economic benefit, students who might be reached in a different learning environment could be counted as graduates. Presumably, they would leave the public school system better Wyoming citizens — better informed, better equipped. Graduation, when boiled down, is nothing more than a return on a public investment. After all, spending money on education is only a good decision when students graduate — essentially having something to show for 12 years of investment.

It’s not so unlike an old advertising slogan: We can pay a little more now or a lot later.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(4) Comments

  1. David Harris
    Report Abuse
    David Harris - November 29, 2013 5:58 am
    Education department always remain active for providing trained and well educated output to the market so that they can easily employed as well as nation get benefit from their technical expertise. Good writing skill is very necessary for getting good grades but if you don't have time for writing then is the best choice which has proven record of people satisfaction.
  2. Houston
    Report Abuse
    Houston - July 26, 2013 11:23 am
    Educators are one of the pieces. When school becomes the less priority for a kid...they quit going. There is usually something pulling a kid away from school more than there is a problem with school. games...hanging is pretty much one of these factors. ..the school tries like heck and at some point. ..the kid has to wake up....
  3. Report Abuse
    - July 24, 2013 7:12 am dropouts have been a problem for years. Too bad educators can't come up with some solutions that curb the problem. Notice, I said educators.
  4. mbudenske
    Report Abuse
    mbudenske - July 24, 2013 5:21 am
    you could have written this editorial in 1987 or in 1997 or 2007 as well. I know first hand the cost to our community of people that don't finish their education. Just come down to Poverty Resistance any day and hang around . . . ask the 200 plus folks that sign in how far they went in school. Dig a little deeper and ask how far their parents and other family members went in school
    Getting the family to buy into the concept is the key.
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