Dropping out of school has especially dire consequences for young people and for society as a whole. Twenty-five years ago, almost 90% of high school dropouts could find regular work. Today, slightly more than a third of young dropouts find full-time employment and only 11% of them are earning more than poverty wages. And while some full-time job opportunities remain, the ability to earn a living wage without a high school diploma is difficult at best in today’s society. Today, a dropout earns about $260,000 less in a lifetime than a high school graduate (Alliance for Excellent Education, September 2007). As we watch our nation develop and transition to a technology-based society, more and more workers are being displaced. High school graduation becomes imperative as high school graduates do twice as well, and college graduates fare six times better than dropouts. Clearly education pays off for students who complete high school. From the class of 2007 dropouts, the United States will lose $329 billion in wages, taxes, and productivity (Alliance for Excellent Education, September 2007).
Beyond the personal costs of dropping out of school, the average dropout costs the community more than $300,000. We know that 75% of the individuals received by the Maryland Division of Corrections (1998 Dropout Prevention Taskforce Report) report themselves as high school dropouts. This means that approximately 17,250 of the 23,000 inmates are dropouts. Each year of incarceration costs state taxpayers more than $30,000 per inmate. Maryland spends about $518 million per year to house the 17,250 inmates who are dropouts. Dropping out is not the only challenge of this population, but we cannot dismiss the correlation between earning a high school diploma and incarceration. A five percent increase in Maryland’s male graduation rate could result in $160,557,762 annually in crime-related savings and $50,869,458 in additional earnings, for a total benefit to the State of $211,427,220 (Alliance for Excellent Education, August 2006)
A ten percent increase in the male graduation rate could reduce murder and assault rates by about 20 percent, motor vehicle theft by 13 percent and arson by eight percent (Moretti, 2005). Thus, we need to do everything possible to ensure that our young people have every opportunity to graduate from high school.
Each local school system (LSS) has developed strategies to address dropout prevention. A description of the services and interventions provided is included in the LSS Bridge to Excellence Master Plan, and the annual updates to that plan.