Boosting high school completion rates continues to be an ongoing priority for officials and other stakeholders across the United States.
U.S. Rep. Donna F. Edwards recently reintroduced legislation, Broadening Opportunities Through Education Act, that would tackle the problem by providing resources to states that raise the age of compulsory school attendance through age 17.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the compulsory school attendance age is 16 in 23 states, 17 in nine states and 18 in 18 states and the District of Columbia.
“Education is the key to building a workforce prepared to meet the needs and challenges of the 21st century global economy,” the Maryland Democrat said in a statement. “However, every year more than 1.2 million students drop out of high schools across the United States. Students who drop out of high school not only reduce their opportunity to learn, but also tend to earn less over the course of their life and are often less prepared to compete in the workforce.”
The Census Bureau’s October Current Population Survey showed that in 2013, 7.3 percent of young people between 18 and 24 had dropped out of high school. Unsurprisingly, those rates increased among minority males—14.7 percent and 9.6 percent of Hispanic and Black men, respectively, failed to graduate high school, according to the survey.
Edwards said turning around that trend would be a boon, not only to those individuals, but also the U.S. economy.
“Reducing the high school dropout rate could provide a significant boost to the economy. A study from Columbia University estimates that the net economic benefit per student graduating high school is approximately $127,000,” the congresswoman said. “As Congress continues to work on strategies to grow our economy, we cannot forget that our greatest asset is the knowledge base of our workforce.”
The Broadening Opportunities Through Education Act would offer funding for initiatives such as expanding work-based programs that integrate academic and career-based skills training; school-registered apprenticeship programs; implementing early-alert systems to identify and help struggling middle- and high-school students, increasing support for students through student advisories and one-to-one mentoring and more.
The bill has received support from education organizations, including the National Education Association and the National Association of Secondary School Principals though not all experts agree on the approach’s efficacy.