High School Dropouts Cost States, Students

March 2, 2006 – Posted at 5:25 p.m. CST

JONESBORO, AR -- A national survey out Thursday suggests that the rising high school dropout rates are part of a "silent" epidemic.

Nearly half of all African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans fail to graduate and these alarming statistics have serious consequences for the country's economic and civil health. The survey, commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, cited reasons for why students dropped out, and it's not because of low grades.

The Valley View School District has a dropout rate of 2.5%...that's three students not graduating with this year's Senior Class of 116. Although that number is low, Superintendent Dr. Radius Baker says that's too many kids not getting an education.

"We try to make sure that we offer those students a vital educational program that encourages attendance and encourages them to have fun at school," said Dr. Baker.

The survey sites leading causes for dropping out as students feeling unmotivated, bored and unsupported. Arkansas law allows students to quit high school when they turn 18, but counselors at Valley View encourage students to at least get a GED.

"I don't just let them go. I talk to them and try to find out what they are going to do. I speak with their parents, make sure they are ok with this decision and I encourage them to go get some form of training or go get their GED," said VVHS Counselor Catherine Williams.

High school students who leave before graduating will cost states billions over their lifetimes in lost wages, taxes and productivity. More than 20,300 students didn't graduate from Missouri high schools in 2004, costing the state about $5.3 billion dollars.

"It is very important to have a high school diploma or a GED and quiet frankly, a high school diploma means more than a GED," said Dr. Baker.

On the average, a high school dropout earns $9,200 dollars less then someone with a high school diploma and over the course of a lifetime, about a million dollars less then a college graduate.

The Jonesboro Adult Education Center is offering free classes for those wishing to obtain their GED. The program runs March 11 th and 12 th , to register, call 870-933-5896.