LC Bulletin: More graduates multiply local successes

February 11, 2011. Retrieved online February 15, 2011 from Tracey Bryan, Las Cruces Bulletin

Community stands to gain from a more educated workforce

The connection between education and income is pretty clear – the longer you stay in school, the more money you make over a lifetime.

A college graduate, on average, makes $1 million more than a high school dropout. A high school dropout is also more likely to be in poverty, twice as likely to slip into poverty in a single year and more likely to be living on public assistance.

The decision to stay in school or not seems, on the surface, like a personal choice that only affects an individual. Right?

Sadly, no.

This personal decision quickly affects the community as a whole, especially when large numbers of high school students choose not to graduate. It hinders their ability to support a family. It keeps businesses from having the employees they need to thrive and grow. It reduces the amount of tax dollars going into the system to fund infrastructure growth, but increases the amount going out to programs that fund dependence. According to “The Social Costs of Inadequate Education” report by the Campaign for Educational Equity, the estimated cost of a dropout on society is about $271,000 per lifetime.

Adding to the number of students who graduate multiplies success throughout the community. Doña Ana County has much to gain if the graduation rate increases. Thanks to the Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University, we can get an idea of exactly how much.

Using data obtained from the Public School Review website and the most recent countywide dropout rate of almost 50 percent in 2008, the Arrowhead Center produced a report, “Dropout Impact Statistics for Doña Ana County, NM.” The following is an example of what could be gained if that rate could be cut in half.

If those 50 percent of students graduated high school, there would be an additional $3.3 million in earnings in the county, and $3 million in disposable income. The numbers jump dramatically if they stay to complete a college degree, $12.8 million in increased earnings and $11.6 million in disposable income.

The report also found that the buying power of those potential graduates would increase home values in the county by $66 million. Interestingly, the survey revealed that the average high school graduate’s home is worth $153,832. The average non-graduate’s home was $80,245 – or roughly half the value of a graduate. So there’s an additional incentive to a student thinking of dropping out – stay in school and you’ll be able to afford twice the house.

There’s good news for the county’s car dealers, too – an additional $529,474 in auto sales would take place every year.

The increase in income and spending also translates into a boost in tax revenue – $361,122 in annual federal revenue and $212,034 for the state.

The final measure of impact was an increase in human capital – or the increase in capacity that comes from pursuing higher education. Currently, about 1 in 5 Doña Ana County high school graduates pursue post-secondary education.

At that rate, there would be an additional 184 students enrolled in higher education institutions – more students in college, and more students prepared for the 21st century workforce.

Read the Las Cruces Bulletin article.

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