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Cost of Inadequate Education to Society Is Hundreds of Billions of Dollars, Researchers Say

Impact reflected in spending on health, unemployment and welfare, also in lost productivity and tax revenue; heavy toll seen on civic engagement and economic competitiveness

Symposium at Teachers College, Columbia University, to offer solutions; event inaugurates The Campaign for Educational Equity

America loses hundreds of billions of dollars each year when young people fail to graduate from high school, with costs reflected in lost productivity and tax revenues, as well as additional burdens to the health care, public assistance and criminal justice systems. The nation faces reduced economic competitiveness in the near future, as well as diminished civic engagement among those most directly affected by inadequate education -- the growing proportion of the population that comes from low-income, minority backgrounds.

Those findings, to be presented today by leading educational researchers at "The Social Costs of Inadequate Education," a symposium at Teacher's College, Columbia University, will provide the most accurate picture yet of chronic failures of America's education system. Summaries and copies of the full reports being presented will also be available starting October 24th at http://www.tc.columbia.edu/centers/EquityCampaign/symposium/resource.asp. The two-day event, key-noted by Congressman Charles Rangel, is the first major research presentation by The Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, launched in June to help close the gap in opportunities and achievement between advantaged and disadvantaged students.

"Educational inequity is first and foremost an issue of justice and fairness, but the research findings we're presenting today show that it is also an issue that affects all of us in our daily lives -- and will affect our children even more so," said Henry M. Levin, William Heard Kilpatrick Professor of Economics and Education at Teachers College, who is chairing the symposium.

Among the findings researchers will be presenting at the symposium:

  • A high school dropout earns about $260,000 less over a lifetime than a high school graduate and pays about $60,000 less in taxes.
  • Annual losses exceed $50 billion in federal and state income taxes for all 23,000,000 U.S. high school dropouts ages 18-67.
  • America loses $192 billion -- 1.6% of GDP -- in combined income and tax revenue losses with each cohort of 18-year-olds who never complete high school. Increasing the educational attainment of that cohort by one year would recoup nearly half those losses.
  • Health-related losses for the estimated 600,000 high school dropouts in 2004 totaled at least $58 billion, or nearly $100,000 per student.
  • High school dropouts have a life expectancy that is 9.2 years shorter than high school graduates.
  • America could save between $7.9 billion and $10.8 billion annually by improving educational attainment among all recipients of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), Food Stamps and housing assistance.
  • Increasing the high school completion rate by just 1 percent for all men ages 20-60 would save the U.S. up to $1.4 billion per year in reduced costs from crime.
  • A one-year increase in average years of schooling for dropouts would reduce murder and assault by almost 30%, motor vehicle theft by 20%, arson by 13%, and burglary and larceny by about 6%.
  • There will be a shortfall of 7 million college-educated workers in America by 2012.
  • Participation in model preschool programs has been shown to boost academic achievement, reduce dropout rates, and lower the risk of teen parenting, drug use and criminal violence. The economic benefits of such programs range as high as $7 for each dollar invested.
  • College graduates are three times more likely to vote than Americans without a high school degree, while those who earn more are far more likely to be affiliated with a political organization. With whites continuing to out-earn blacks and Hispanics of equal educational attainment, it is clear that education does not bring minorities the same degree of political voice.
  • The bulge in America 's school-age population contrasts with other industrialized countries, where declining fertility rates are the norm. This "demographic dividend" could help maintain economic competitiveness and assuage population aging, but it can only be realized with appropriate educational investments.

"This research shows that we also clearly need to address the issues outside the classroom that undermine educational success, and that we must develop new and more comprehensive approaches to promoting educational equity," said Michael Rebell , Executive Director of The Campaign for Educational Equity, who along with Laurie M. Tisch, the Campaign's Board Chair, assumed leadership of the Campaign in June. "We need to look into each social policy area that directly impinges on children's ability to learn and ask the question, -'How can current resources best be directed to improve student functioning? Where are additional resources necessary?'"

The findings are contained in 10 papers that researchers will present over two days. During lunch on the second day, Rebell will lead breakout sessions in which audience members will propose "action responses" to the new data. On the following day, he will convene a smaller gathering of leaders from business, state legislatures, academia, advocacy and non-profit organizations, and the media to discuss both the symposium findings and the audience reactions. The goal will be to issue a research and action agenda for The Campaign for Educational Equity.

"The Social Costs of Inadequate Education" is sponsored by the Laurie M. Tisch Foundation. It is being held at Columbia University 's Alfred Lerner Hall on Monday and Tuesday, October 24th and 25th. A full agenda of the symposium is available at http://www.tc.columbia.edu/centers/EquityCampaign/symposium/program.asp.

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