According to the U.S. Department of Education's Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 1972-2012 published in 2015, the average high school dropout costs the economy approximately $250,000 over his or her lifetime. With the average life expectancy of 79 years, this equates to $4,166 as an annual cost to the economy. Employers, educators, and government organizations are making purposeful commitments to providing pathways for young people who have aged out of compulsory school to achieve their high school diploma and prepare for the workforce or higher education. Here we touch upon how myriad stakeholders can help these students that have typically aged-out of the traditional k-12 system - and why they'd want to.

The Approach

Alternative education efforts provided by organizations for non-compulsory students act as a complement to the growing success of traditional K-12 high school innovation efforts that in recent years have yielded consistent graduation rate improvements, now over 80%, and yet are still seeking to help the approximately 1,000,000 young people who still do not graduate each year. These non-graduates eventually become non-compulsory age students who also need solutions as part of their pathways to college or employment.

The hallmark of this approach is an adaptive learning environment that works for young adults who are "second chance" learners. Features to further customize and augment this alternative learning experience for second chance learners would include: self-directed instructional design models, a mobile-first experience, a competency-based curriculum, and "surround sound" coaching support aimed at preparing graduates for the workforce.


"It is estimated that five million jobs in the U.S. are unfilled. At the same time, there are roughly 8.7 million Americans looking for work and 24 million frontline workers who might be able to fill these jobs if they were given the opportunity to develop additional skills." - i4cp

A number of private sector companies " including those in the hospitality, retail, and restaurant industries " are offering educational programs to their frontline, hourly employees who were unable to complete a traditional high school program. By offering education pathways, employers such as Church's Chicken are able to increase the number of people who are eligible for managerial roles, thereby reducing turnover and promoting from within. Not only are employers working in tandem with edtech providers to offer meaningful education benefits and tangible upskilling opportunities to their current employees, they are also working to attract and retain qualified new employees to join the ranks. According to a recent Penn Foster survey, restaurant executives' number one priority for reducing turnover in 2016 is motivating and retaining top talent. That said, restaurants should have strong incentive to support educational programs in order to upskill talent.

Government Organizations

Every 26 seconds a student becomes labeled a "dropout." That's 7,000 students per day, many of whom need help navigating the hazards of poverty, violence, neglect, abuse, health issues, or family incarceration. Organizations like Job Corps and YouthBuild provide Opportunity Youth a second chance at earning a high school diploma in a supportive, blended learning environment. By partnering with a blended learning education provider, these organizations can help non-completers gain access to education in a way that works for them. Students gain the confidence, credentials, and skills to help them better their lives and overcome challenges. Education providers can also work closely with Workforce Boards and local-nonprofit organizations to connect employers with skilled workers based on their needs.


Colleges and career schools across the country are seeking ways to provide prospective students lacking proof of graduation the opportunity to earn a regionally and nationally accredited high school diploma, and a path to matriculate into their college. By partnering with blended learning educators, postsecondary institutions like Dorsey Schools and Blue Cliff College can offer pathways for students to earn their high school diploma through a blended learning environment, and have a direct onramp to enroll in the sponsor school.


Whether you represent an employer, youth organization, Workforce Investment Board, or post-secondary school, you have avenues to help engage the 5.5 million disconnected young Americans ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor working. By engaging this demographic, we can work together to power the 21st century workforce and provide a new, bright future for those most in need.

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