The U.S achieved an 80% high school graduation rate in 2012, a triumphant milestone for education. But the remaining 20% still represent a population of young people who not only exclude themselves from a future of opportunity, but inadvertently produce negative consequences for higher education, local job markets, communities, and the overall economy.
The macro economic and social impact of the high school dropout crisis is referred to as the "ripple effect." When young people fail to earn a high school diploma, the effects propagate throughout the educational system as well as the local community, job market, and economy.
Reversing the ripple effect begins with the high school diploma. Completing secondary education and earning a high school diploma enables young people to transition into higher education, which generates a higher quality of life, a better-educated workforce, a more qualified talent pool, and a strengthened community-and, it boosts career college enrollment rates. Reduce the ripple effect by committing to increasing high school graduation rates.
High School Completion Solution
Career colleges can help by offering a high school completion program. This type of program provides high school non-completers-who didn't perform well in a typical high school environment for a variety of reasons-with another option for getting their diploma. Re-engaged high school students can earn a high school diploma and then matriculate into career schools, boosting enrollment rates. These students then become college graduates and skilled workers, which the labor pool desperately needs.
Personal Value of College Education
The economic returns of obtaining a bachelor's or associate degree are substantial. The average college graduate earns more than $20,000 a year more than the average high school graduate, according to a New York Federal Reserve study. Someone without a college degree faces bleak prospects of a secure job and a livable income. Individuals without an education "fall behind" into unemployment and wage disparity.
First-generation college students are also paving the way for future generations to achieve academic success. Parents with college degrees are more likely than parents without degrees to encourage their own children to attend college, The Atlantic reports. Young people from families with college experience are more likely to immediately transition into college after high school and obtain a post-secondary degree. This is a powerful trend in higher education; a poll by the College Board and National Journal revealed that 80% of participants raised by college-educated parents said their parents urged them to pursue a college degree. Cultivate a generation of educated young people and education-oriented families to ultimately create an educated workforce, economic prosperity, and prospering communities.
Educated Workforce & Economic Prosperity
Not only does education lead to improved futures, it lays the foundation for a strong workforce and economic growth. In 2013, a report by the Economic Policy Institute stated that "a well-educated workforce is key to state prosperity." An investment in education (as well as making a high-quality education accessible) is a cornerstone for economic success. As the economy improves, incomes and wages increase as well.
Educational institutions with job-training programs can also help fill the skills gap in industries like manufacturing, industrial machinery, and welding industries. Employers face a deficit in qualified employees and future talent as manufacturing workforces age and retire. Also, industry growth is starting to outpace the number of skilled workers available to take jobs. According to an Accenture study, more than 75% of surveyed manufacturers expect a moderate to severe shortage of skilled workers, and the majority of surveyed manufacturers project an increase in production within the next five years, which exacerbates the skills gap, reports USNews.com.1 A Boston Consulting Group study even projects a shortage of about 875,000 machinists, welders, industrial-machinery mechanics and industrial engineers by 2020.4
Education similarly serves as a positive influence for quick-service restaurant and retail industries affected by high turnover rates. Offering employees an option to earn their high school diploma signifies the employees' value to the company and provides the opportunity for job advancement. Consequently, employers can lower turnover rates and overall reduce expenses related to recruitment and new-hire training. Like career colleges, employers can partner with a high school completion program designed to equip employee nongraduates with the credential, supporting their career path.
Positive Community Members
Education shapes individuals into contributing members of society who make a positive impact on their communities. The Economic Policy Institute adds that educational systems can help strengthen the ability to develop and grow businesses, which offer high-wage jobs.3 But educational systems can also improve living conditions for citizens who have the credentials and skill sets to work well-paying jobs. High-quality employment supports families and enables people to buy local goods and services.
Education also fosters civic duty and social responsibility. No matter the age group, adults who have higher levels of education are more likely to vote than adults with lower levels of education, according to the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. For example, 76% of U.S. citizens who voted in the 2004 presidential election between ages 25-44 were college graduates.5
Equipped with a high school diploma, technical certificate or college degree, an individual is more likely to be employed with a secure home, which even reduces rates of poverty and crime. Together, poverty and crime create a vicious cycle. Poverties.org asserts that crime can cause unemployment, economic downturns, and instability. Thus, unemployment, poverty, and crime are inextricably linked. Provide high school non-completers with a unique opportunity to start their educational journey and ultimately earn a well-paying income to allay a concerning level of poverty and crime in communities.
Career colleges are in a unique position to help reverse the ripple effect of high school noncompleters. Support educational attainment and bolster high school graduation rates with a high school completion program. Equipped with a high school diploma, graduates can embark on a higher ed journey, acquire essential skill sets and graduate as quality, attractive workers who can bring home a decent income. As a result, employing these skilled individuals will produce economic, communal and social improvements, from more productive industries and lower rates of turnover to reduced poverty and crime.