During the course of our lifetimes, all of us will make decisions and choices that will greatly impact our financial futures — from decisions about higher education, training, changing jobs, investments and savings to the countless number of things we buy or don’t buy.
Yet for all of those decisions, perhaps the most important one many Americans make comes in their early teens.
Each year in the United States, 1.2 million kids will drop out of high school. As sobering as that number is, it’s worth noting this number, which accounts for 6.5 percent of high school students, has declined steadily over the past 20 years.
On the national, state and local level, more kids are making the right choice — staying in school.
Nationally, the dropout rate has been reduced almost by half. And while Mississippi’s dropout rate reduction lags the national average, the state has made significant strides, reducing that rate by roughly one percentage point a year over the past six years. Mississippi’s dropout rate for 2016 was 10.8 percent.
Locally, two school districts grab our attention. The Starkville-Oktibbeha School District’s dropout rate is 3.4 percent, ninth lowest in the state. Meanwhile, the Columbus Municipal School District has reduced its dropout rate from 17.1 percent in 2014 to 9.8 percent in 2016.
That is something that should be celebrated, as the district’s continuing efforts to reduce those rates even more.
Monday, CMSD kicked off a program called “Bridging the Gap,” which provides regular monitoring and mentoring for 50 male students at Columbus High School, who have been identified as “as risk” for dropping out.
The implications of dropping out are many, not the least of which are financial. Studies show a high school dropout will earn $200,000 less over his/her working years than someone with a high school diploma and $1.2 million less than someone who earns a college degree.
That gap is only likely to grow as the jobs of the future require more and more education/training.
Clearly, dropping out is a bad choice for the individual, but it also has serious implications for the larger community.
Dropouts who are unemployed or working in low-wage jobs contribute less to the services tax dollars support and use more of those services. There is also this stark correlation between dropouts and crime. It is estimated that 75 percent of crimes are committed by high school dropouts.
Clearly, the stakes are high for all of us.
We applaud the efforts of our educators to identify those students who may be on the cusp of making a decision that may alter their lives forever in a very negative way and for intervening on behalf not only of that student, but for the broader community.
Teens, being teens, are sometimes prone to making bad choices. But this is a bad choice no one can afford.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.