This morning another national organization (Alliance for Excellent Education) released a report detailing the dire personal and societal costs associated dropouts. Princeton economics professor Celia Rouse, who conducted the study, estimated that each dropout over his or her lifetime costs the nation about $260,000. Assuming current rates, more than 12 million students will dropout of school over the next decade, at a cost of $3 trillion dollars. The study also estimated that if all high school dropouts in North Carolina from the class of 2008 had graduated, they would add nearly $10.7 billion in additional lifetime income.
The numbers are daunting, but we shouldn’t get lost in the statistics. The dropout rate is a serious problem. However another problem also seems to be emerging: the Legislature’s inability to improve the dropout problem in NC. Yes, it’s a complicated problem and involves many factors. Still after a year’s worth of meetings with experts and studying the issue, the Commission on Dropout Prevention and High School Graduation only recommends more of the same. Budget proposals for next year include either $7 or $8 million in dropout prevention grants — nearly the same as the previous year. However, we still don’t kow what impact if any the grants have. More importantly we also don’t know why kids leave school. We’re spinning our wheels. The current rates reflect it and the costs are only growing higher. Civic, youth, religious and business organizations all have an important role to play in reversing these trends. However, many of these groups are absent from the current discussion. It’s time to try something that works.