Through the juvenile courts and the adult criminal justice system, the United States incarcerates more of its youth than any other country in the world. In 2013, 54,148 juveniles were incarcerated in youth detention facilities alone and approximately 500,000 youth are brought to detention centers in a given year.1  The consequences of this dynamic includes the phenomenon of "peer delinquency training," and results in greater levels of substance abuse, school difficulties, violence, and adjustment difficulties to adulthood.2 These dynamics are also a primary cause of the so called "dropout-to-prison pipeline" issue which regrettably proves the high correlation between high school drop rates and youth challenges with the law. This situation is pervasive and depreciates the lives of millions of young Americans, and also ends up costing taxpayers billions of dollars to keep dropouts and disadvantaged populations in prison.

The Devastating Effects of the Pipeline

Traditional high school is no longer an option for so many of our nation's students. Inadequate funding of public school systems ensures that student's educational needs are not met, which in turn severely impacts at-risk communities. Though studies have shown that the national high school graduation rate is on the rise, over one million students still drop out every year.3,4 Those without high school diplomas have the highest chance of unemployment, and are not eligible for 90% of US jobs.5,6

Not surprisingly, 80% of prison inmates are high school dropouts.7 This troubling statistic is costing the economy as well; a decade of dropouts, monetarily speaking, will add up to $7.5 trillion in lifetime earnings which will never enter the economy.8 It's also no secret that our nation has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, and that comes with skyrocketing costs.9 If that weren't enough, the skills gap is directly affected as well; while employers cannot find or grow enough qualified workers to fill middle-skilled jobs while more than 12 million people remain unemployed in our nation today.10 Not only is this a massive economic catastrophe, but is an unbelievable waste of human life and potential.

One Solution To the Crisis

Though there may seem to be no way out of the dropout-to-prison problem, there is one government-funded solution that is paying off big-time, and deserves some major accolades. Job Corps centers around the nation are combating the dropout crisis by providing at-risk students and dropouts free education and alternative learning solutions. As the nation's largest federally funded job-training program, each year Job Corps centers serve and improve the lives of 60,000 students by offering them a much needed second chance. According to a new study in the the Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, results show positive effects on employability and wages for Job Corps participants when compared to those without high school diplomas. After 4 years of education at Job Corps, graduates earn between 5.7% and 13.9% more, while non-Hispanics earn between 7.7% and 17.5% more.11

What Job Corps Offer Students

Job Corps centers provide students with several educational options: centers partner with local school districts to re-enroll students and help them graduate high school. Students can also study for and earn their GED through Job Corps training centers. High school graduates have the option to participate in vocational training to learn hands-on career skills.

A Proud Partnership

Since 2008, Penn Foster has been a partner with Job Corps. Penn Foster offers a High School Completion Program on over 80 Job Corps centers for students looking for alternative options to the GED or traditional classroom setting. Students can earn their regionally-accredited high school diploma on a self-paced level in and out of the classroom. Job Corps centers have graduated over 22,000 Penn Foster students since 2008, and the high school diploma program sees an 80% graduation rate.

The results speak for themselves; it's time for policymakers to reinvest time and money into solutions like Job Corps and disrupt the educational crisis that plagues our nation's youth, communities, and overall economic progress.

Watch the 2015 Paul Simon Job Corps Penn Foster High School Graduation Video


Also Recommended for You: High School Graduation Rate on the Rise

Resources: (1) Youth incarceration in the United States (2) Substance abuse (3) U.S. High School Graduation Rate Hits Record High (4) "Background on High School Dropouts." Do Something. N.p., 2012. Web. 13 Oct. 2013. (5) Employment Projections (6) The High Cost of High School Dropouts: What the Nation Pays for Inadequate High Schools, Nov 2013 (7,8) Expand Job Corps to prevent Freddie Grays (9) How "prison without bars" could cut the cost of prison and keep people from coming back (10) A Risk Management-based Look at the Infosec Skills Gap (11) Study finds positive effects of job corps participation

Other Related Resources: Fast Facts: Dropout rates, What is the School-to-Prison Pipeline?