Magazine article Distance Learning

Online GED: Equalizing Opportunities for Adult Dropouts in Hillsborough County

Magazine article Distance Learning

Online GED: Equalizing Opportunities for Adult Dropouts in Hillsborough County

Article excerpt

Introduction

Not having a high school diploma or its equivalent produces negative outcomes in individuals and society that are mostly related to economy. A person who does not complete high school loses approximately $260,000 in lifetime income compared to one with a high school diploma or general educational diploma (Rouse, 2007). This economic consequence may worsen if we consider that dropouts contribute about half as much in taxes as do high school graduates and draw larger government subsidies in the form of food stamps, housing assistance, and welfare (Dynarski et al., 2008). Comparing dropouts with those who complete high school, the average high school dropout costs the economy approximately $209,200 over an individual's lifetime in terms of lower tax contributions, higher reliance on Medicaid and Medicare, higher rates of criminal activity, and higher reliance on welfare (Levin & Belfield, 2007). The National Center for Educational Statistics has projected 20,392,000 of ninth to 12th graders in the United States during 2013 and with an 8% dropout average (see Figure 1) (Chapman, Laird, Ifill, & KewalRamani, 2011); more than one and a half million of students will leave school without a high school diploma. So if we consider that a cohort of 700,000 high school dropouts has a fiscal consequence of $148 billion in lost taxes revenues and additional public expenditures over the cohort's lifetime (Levin & Belfield, 2007), the total lost in the Unites States will be more than $300 billion. Thus, something needs to be done to ensure high school graduation and avoid a fiscal crisis in the future.

A study developed by the Alliance for Excellent Education (2011), indicates that raising educational outcomes not only boosts incomes for individuals who earn degrees, but these individual gains also compound to improve local, state, and national economies. Indeed, improving high school graduation rates represents a great economic stimulus for any state. Consequently, the challenge for school districts and states is to implement interventions to raise high school graduation rates, which in effect is happening around the nation now. Five of those interventions whose effectiveness is supported by research studies are summarized by Levin and Belfield (2007) and shown in Table 1. Another important intervention is currently in progress in the Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS), the eighthlargest school system in the country. HCPS is in the midst of a 7-year initiative focused in raising the rate of high school graduation from an initial 82.2% to 90% or more (Hillsborough County Public Schools, 2011). Although these interventions have increased the rate of their high school graduates, no one has reduced the percentage of dropouts to zero. It represents that there are still students who leave school before attaining high school graduation. Therefore, additional effort must be done to reach those individuals without high school diploma that after all become in adults with fewer opportunities for success. Adult education provides educational opportunities and at the same time reduces the amount of dropouts.

Adult Education at HCPS

For more than 60 years, the Adult Education Program has been the major contributor to the educational opportunities to adults in the Hillsborough County. HCPS administers its Adult Education Program under the Division of Curriculum and Instruction and has for its mission to serve the academic, career, leisure, and special needs of students for the life roles they will assume and to enhance the economic development of the community. Each year, this program provides educational opportunities to more than 30,000 individual adult students 16 years or older in the areas of adult basic education, general educational development (GED), adult high school credit, English for speakers of other languages, citizenship, vocational preparation instruction, workplace readiness skills, and technical career educational opportunities (http://ace. …

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