On yesterday's Midmorning program on MPR, Superintendent of St Paul Public Schools, Meria Carstarphen, joined John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Enterprises, in a conversation on high school dropouts in Minnesota.
Bridgeland authored a study in 2006 that surveyed high school dropouts [Download pdf] and found that the problem is far worse in the nation's cities than in suburbs. Supt. Carstarphen serves on a Growth & Justice steering committee that is developing a “Smart Investment" strategy for education in Minnesota. Their conversation tracked closely with our analysis on the staggering social and economic costs of the high school dropout epidemic.
According to the 2006 American Community Survey of the US Census Bureau, the median earnings of a worker with less than a high school diploma are just a little over $19,000, whereas earnings for an individual with a high school diploma rise to $27,500. The cumulative difference in lost income totals nearly a half a million dollars over a lifetime.
Said another way, the individual who finishes high school gains substantially higher income; society and the taxpayer gain as well.
Research commissioned by Growth & Justice confirms this impact in Minnesota. Lifetime taxable wages in the state grow approximately $251,900 for every non-graduate who becomes a graduate. Economic analysis by Henry Levin and Clive Belfield estimated that the increased tax revenues, plus 10-20% reduced criminalization and lower welfare and government health program enrollment, produced a social benefit to Minnesota of about $1 million for every additional graduate.
Conversely, every dropout will cost the taxpayers $1 million.
With nearly 10,000 new dropouts each year, the opportunity cost to the state increases almost $10.6 billion annually. The cost of dropping out of high school is clearly too expensive — for both the individual and the state. Increasing high school graduation rates should be among the state's top priorities.
— Angie Eilers