04 Legally SpeakingOnce again, North Carolina is faced with daunting numbers concerning its children and their education. These numbers have to do with dropouts, and the numbers are not good. According to the National Center for Education Statistics in North Carolina, last year we had 11,000 students drop out of school. This school year, we will lose over 250 students a week to dropping out.

If we just knew those figures, it would be enough to cause alarm. But what we have learned, and what many do not fully grasp, is the cost.

Consider that we now know that a dropout makes $10,000 a year less than a person who completes their high school education and over $36,000 less than a person with a bachelor’s degree. The unemployment rate is 15 percent higher for dropouts.

These statistics should raise concerns for us. They demonstrate we must get a grip on why we are losing our youth, and this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

A dropout is likely to live a shorter period. He or she is likely to be less productive. A dropout is nine times more likely to be a single mother.

A dropout is less likely to marry or participate in civic affairs.

Dropouts are less likely to vote or participate in the democratic process.

But the most disturbing facts are that dropouts make up more than 80 percent of our prison population, and over our lifetime will cost society over $292,000 apiece. Imagine what we could do with the excess funds if we simply cut the dropout rate in half and kept those students in school to finish their degrees.

If all dropouts in the nation from the class of 2011 had earned diplomas, the nation would benefit from $150 billion in income over their working lifetimes.

These statistics are devastating, to say the least, but they are only statistics. There are other factors to consider, including the quality of life that each of us has, both the citizen who is working hard and building themselves up and the dropout, who has little or no chance to do so.

By changing this, we not only change the statistics stated above, but we also change the quality of life for all citizens, including dropout and their children. We must act now to end this incredible plague on our communities by keeping young people in school. The remedy begins with our legislators, who have done little over the past several sessions to address the issue.


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