Will Raising The Dropout Age In High Schools Help?

Folks may recall that President Obama called on states to raise the drop out age to 18.  Senator Lester Jackson (D – Savannah) has proposal to do just that, but he’s had the idea for a while.  Some Republicans aren’t exactly warm towards the idea.  Those opposed are questioning the actual effectiveness of raising the drop out age.  From the Savannah Morning News:

The most frequent objection to the proposal is its cost — which Jackson estimates at $8 million a year. That remains a major obstacle, at least for some.

“I just don’t think the state can afford to do it right now,” Savannah-Chatham public schools board member Lori Brady said recently.

But Jackson has argued all along that Georgia can’t afford not to do something about the dropout rate.

“It costs us about three tines as much if one-third of dropouts end up in juvenile detention or jail,” he said. “If one-fourth of them become pregnant, hospital and medical costs, food stamps and the like will cost us $30 million.”

Chatham County Commissioner Helen Stone, a Republican and a long-time supporter of the idea, has agreed to testify in favor of Jackson’s bill.

“If you look at our jail and prison population,” Stone said, “you’ll find that the average age is 21 or 22 and 90 percent of them dropped out of high school.

“That is pretty scary. If we don’t do something, most of our tax dollars will go for public safety. We have to try something different because what we’ve been doing doesn’t work.”

But Jackson’s approach still faces skepticism.

Rep. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, wants to see more numbers.

“I’m not sure it’s cost-effective,” Watson said.

In a related note, I recall seeing something on Boortz’s Nealz Nuze from the Brookings Institute about 3 things folks can do to dramatically decrease the chances of living in poverty:

Those things, according to a Brookings Institute study are:

  • Graduate high school
  • Work full time
  • Marry before you have children

That’s it!  Do those three things and your chances of being poor fall to just 2%.  If you can’t handle those three things then you have pretty much brought your poverty on yourself, and you have no claim on any portion of my life to right your wrongs.

It would seem to me that mandating a raise in the drop out age would just allow students who don’t want to put forth the effort to mentally check out longer.  Rather than trying to find a quick fix, we should examine our curriculum and determine how to guide these young people into a path that would allow them to be productive members of society.  Perhaps we really should consider teaching technical skills in our high schools once again.


  1. Bridget says:

    Couple of things…

    1. I whole-heartedly support teaching technical skills. I graduated with both College Prep and Vocational stamps on my high school diploma. My four years of drafting and Autocad classes in lieu of chorus and gym served me well in architectural school. A lot of the media and mechanic guys went into computers and engineering. Technical skills are good for everyone – not just those wanting to work immediately after high school.

    2. After first glance (roughly 10 minutes) I don’t support raising the dropout rate. I’m not sure exactly where the $8M cost of the proposal comes from, but we’ll take it face value. Yes, it appears like dropouts costing Georgia $95M is greater than the $8M to keep them in school (AFP data), but then I looked at this way…

    If a dropout costs $2,455 per year, you’d have to help ~3260 of them (in this senior class) stay in school to make the $8M a wash. Georgia had 20,135 dropouts 2007-2008; 3260 is about 16%. I don’t know that raising the age to 18 would effect 16%…that’s a big leap. Fix the curriculum, yes. Raise the age, no.

    From the AFP website:

    •On average, each of Georgia’s more than 760,000 working-age dropouts earns $7,200
    less annual income compared to high school graduates, totaling $5.5 billion per year in
    reduced earnings.

    •The annual public cost associated with Georgia’s more than 760,000 working-age
    dropouts is about $1.8 billion.

    •Each new class of dropouts produces public costs of $95 million every year for the rest
    of their lives, or about $2,455 per dropout.


  2. Calypso says:

    “Will Raising The Dropout Age In High Schools Help?”

    I guess the big question to your question, Nathan, is “Help What?” Will it help in warehousing some kids for an extra year? Most likely. Will it help with the graduation rate? No.

    What it will do is make the classroom experience for the teachers and the students who want to graduate, but have to put up with those who are in school because the law requires them to be, more miserable.

    The kids who don’t want to be there, but are required by law, make both the teaching and the learning experience bad for those who are desirous of an education.

  3. saltycracker says:

    Leave the dropout age at 16 and make any person that voluntarily drops out ineligible for public assistance of any kind.

    • Chaos says:

      Amen. If I were king (or principal, or superintendent etc.) for a day, I would force every person dropping out of HS to sit down and look at the coming results of such a poor decision…lower wages, not being able to afford buying your kids a Christmas present, eating Ramen noodles, constantly being harassed by the bill collector, living in a van down by the river…

      Remove the safety net of public assistance and then it’s “sink or swim” time. Let folks know that their poor choices aren’t going to be paid for by those who made wiser choices. Some would quit anyway. Some wouldn’t.

    • John Konop says:

      The drop situation can be driven by other reasons other than academics ie teen pregenacy, family needs the income to survive…..

      I do not think students being forced to stay in school will solve the problem. The real solution is flexing the system to allow students to gain skills for work before leaving high schools without having to complete college prep curriculum. And if kids fall off track for various reasons we must have alternatives for the people to gain skills or we end up paying for the anyways ie crime,
      prison, lack of tax revenue via life of low wages……….

  4. saltycracker says:

    “…need the income to survive.”
    Enabling our children and using taxpayer money to avoid consequences for actions is a crime against humanity and a free society.

    To suggest we must provide for them as high school is directionally impaired is to double down on a problem. A high school diploma must involve prep for vocational & college.

    The safety net for those choosing to drop out can be charities and family not the taxpayer.

    • John Konop says:


      Not every person needs to go to college. We need people to cut hair, do construction, repairs…… The father of the free market system Adam Smith was a major advocate for publicly paid training for educations and or job skills ie vo-tec training. It is basic economics if we do not have a trained work force it is an economic race to the bottom. This idea you can train everyone to be an engineer, scientist…….is irrational. The history of the IQ test was designed for aptitude during WW1 to know how to best sort people for training. It was no designed to put people in a one size fit all system for education and or training system.

      • saltycracker says:

        We have long agreed the masses of future workers will come from vocational training.
        The problem cannot be addressed with your drop out alternative of taxpayer’s enabling our children.

        • John Konop says:

          Life sends people allot of curve balls, and sometimes we screw up. The real question is what is best for society. And if we do not help people via training options when they make bad choices than it will cost all of us way more in the long run. I am all for the concept of having as many options as possible to teach people to fish.

          • saltycracker says:

            The discussion is about rejecting the training (which we agreed needs improvements)and you want to do what ? One of those options for you being for the taxpayer (in lieu of charities/parents) to catch the fish for them, clean it, cook it & spoon feed it to them….resources do not exist and should not exist for that to be reality….and that is not what being in American is all about….

              • saltycracker says:

                Spinning silly – answer no, however, there should be consequences for those that do not fulfill those opportunities, like no more grants, outstanding debt to be paid, no degree……your options include what should be considered crimes against humanity….. Are you for communism ?

                Thank you for this discussion, I’m done.

                • John Konop says:

                  First student loans you must pay, you cannot bk it. Second the father of capitalism Adam Smith was very big on public education and or training. Third I think must who hit rock bottom have felt the onsequenses in a very personal level. Finally America is the country of second opportunities. What you are advocating is stepping on people when they are down. This does not mean that strings should not be attached to the help, but Adam Smith would debate you on your definition of capitalism. Remember at the time Adam Smith was more know for being a moral philosopher who was one of the leading abolishanist of his time.

  5. Jack Greene says:

    This idea that a higher graduation rate someone reflects that our school’s are being successful is a huge miscalculation being made by both sides of the aisle in Washington. How the school system would improve with even more kids being forced to be there is a complete clue to me. Most of the kids are there because it is a free babysitter. In my opinion, there should be many less kids in school as there as now. But if they are going to be there, the least we could do is prepare them for multiple avenues. Let’s face it: not all kids are cut out for college. Let’s prepare our kids by giving them vocational, technical, college, and job preparation if we are going to have schools. If not, the free market will do much better for us.

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