Dropouts Cost U.S. $84 Billion Annually | Teachers College Columbia University

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Dropouts Cost U.S. $84 Billion Annually

The value of staying in school has never been greater. Consider that a high school dropout today will earn a projected $260,000 less over a lifetime than a young student who graduates. Or that collectively, dropouts cost American society an estimated $84 billion a year in lost income tax revenue.

Teachers College Symposium To Document Costs of Inadequate Education and Recommend Policy Changes

Congressman Charles Rangel to Deliver Opening Address, Michael Rebell

To Bring Symposium Findings, Recommendations Straight To Lawmakers

Event Inaugurates The Campaign for Educational Equity at TC

The value of staying in school has never been greater. Consider that a high school dropout today will earn a projected $260,000 less over a lifetime than a young student who graduates. Or that collectively, dropouts cost American society an estimated $84 billion a year in lost income tax revenue.

Leading economists, social scientists and others will discuss the price our nation pays for inadequate education and offer some solutions at a symposium held at Columbia University's Alfred Lerner Hall Oct. 24-25. The next day, Oct. 26, policymakers, legislators, foundation heads and business leaders will be presented with a summary of the studies and policy recommendations from the Symposium.

The Symposium, sponsored by the Laurie M. Tisch Foundation and chaired by Henry M.  Levin, TC's William Heard Kilpatrick Professor of Economics and Education, will be the first major event conducted by The Campaign for Educational Equity. The Campaign was launched at TC in June with Michael A. Rebell as its Executive Director and Laurie M. Tisch as Board Chair. Its goal is to help close the achievement gap between the nation's most advantaged and disadvantaged students.

Congressman Charles B. Rangel, (D-15th District, NY) will deliver the Symposium's opening address on Monday morning, October 24th

The annual income tax revenue losses caused by the lower salaries of all high school dropouts age 18 to 67-'"more than $84 billiona year-'"could fund No Child Left Behind and other U.S. Department of Education programs for a year, says Cecilia Rouse, Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Rouse is just one of the nationally recognized scholars who will present studies at the landmark event. In addition to economic costs to society, experts will report other costs of inadequate education in America, including lost productivity; increased burden on the criminal justice system, health care system and public assistance; and reduced civic engagement.

Programs for raising the graduation rate will be offered, along with cost-benefit analyses of such programs. In the closing session, Michael A. Rebell, Executive Director of the Campaign for Educational Equity, will summarize action proposals culled from the audience during special lunchtime breakout sessions, and then lead an interactive plenary discussion aimed at developing a specific agenda for follow-up action.

"We live in an age when it seems that altruistic arguments aren't sufficient to persuade society to invest in educational equity," says Levin. "Yet even though many of us may feel that we are unaffected by the massive educational inequities in our society, the facts are just the opposite. We all pay for such failure and the costs are staggering. The research presented at our Symposium will show the magnitude of those costs."

For example, Levin, together with a team of researchers, has evaluated interventions that would improve the rate of high school graduation for black males. He will provide estimates of the cost of implementing such interventions on a national scale and compare those costs with estimated benefits of reduced costs of health care and crime and increased income and taxes.

The other presenters are:

  • Richard Rothstein,Tisch Visiting Professor at Teachers College,former New York Times education columnist, EconomicPolicy Institute fellow and author of Class and Schools. He will present a statistical overview of the extent of educational equity gap and its causes -- many of which extend beyond the classroom.  
  • Enrico Moretti, University of California at Berkeley. Hewill attempt to quantifythe potential effect on crime rates and crime costs of boosting the number of high school graduates. Taking into account the costs of keeping more students in school through graduation, he finds that cost savings to the criminal justice system associated with increasing graduation rates for male students alone by just one percent would run into the billions of dollars. 
  • Irwin Garfinkel, Jane Waldfogeland Brendan Kelly, Columbia University School of Social Work. What is the increased risk of being on public assistance, food stamps or housing assistance that's associated with failure to graduate from high school -- and what is the additional cost to taxpayers? Each of these programs costs America roughly $30 billion annually. Working from data that includes the Current Population Survey, the researchers anticipate that -- based on preliminary findings -- public savings achieved simply by boosting graduation rates could amount to many billions of dollars.  
  • Clive Belfield, QueensCollege, CUNY.Belfield reports on the potential impact of early childhood interventions on inequities in education across race, socioeconomic status and gender. In particular, he will report on inequities at the start of schooling and how these relate to inequities through high school and into adulthood. He will also attempt to put a price-tag on broad-scale implementation of such initiatives and determine what proportion of children would be eligible to benefit from them -- all questions that bear directly on whether inequities can be reduced by investing in pre-school.
  • Peter Muennig, Columbia School of Public Health. Many studies have shown that increased education is clearly associated with better health and longer life expectancy. Working from several years of data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (produced by the federal Agency for Health Research and Quality), Muennig asks: What does the public pay for increased use of public health facilities and insurance associated with poor education, and what is the cost of  the less healthful lifestyles of those who are less well educated?

"To truly improve the chances of low income children to succeed in school and thus in society, we need interventions that are much broader in scope, addressing home life, health, and school quality. But to do this right, we also have to spend a lot of money, so it's important to know how much we are going to get back in terms of a healthier, more productive, and more socially responsible citizenry," Muennig says.

  • Ronald Ferguson,Harvard/Kennedy School of Government.Ferguson summarizes the major (and often competing) schools of thought about how to reduce the educational equity gap and its costs, providing examples from research about the impact of the different policies. "No single strand of policy or practice stands out head and shoulders above the rest -- eeach major perspective has something to contribute," Ferguson says. "Our biggest challenge is to try to integrate all of these approaches and reduce wasted energy in political battles for the moral high ground." 

Other speakers at the Symposium will include Laurie Tisch, Board Chair of The Campaign for Educational Equity, and TC President Arthur Levine. On Wednesday, October 26th, a smaller gathering of policymakers, legislators, foundation heads, business leaders and others will review findings from the Symposium -- as well as the policy recommendations summarized by Rebell -- and attempt to fashion a detailed policy proposal based on the Symposium's major findings.

"Our goal, as with all aspects of the Campaign, is to make things happen," says Rebell.

For more information on "The Social Costs of Inadequate Education," visit www.tc.edu/symposium.

Published Thursday, Sep. 22, 2005