Stay in school, make more money

It doesn’t take a college degree to understand that the high dropout rate in Philadelphia’s schools is bad for the city’s economic competitiveness.

Employers constantly complain that job applicants they see don’t have the skills they need. That includes high school and college graduates. Dropouts? Forget it.

As well-intentioned as it sounds, simply telling students “stay in school” isn’t cutting it.

Thanks to a new study by Northeastern University, I suggest we appeal to their greed: “Stay in school, make more money.”

The study, released by the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board, determined a high school graduate in Philadelphia earns almost twice the lifetime earnings of a high school dropout. That’s $870,600 vs. $457,100.

The mean annual earnings of a dropout in the city were only $9,663. Compare that with the $19,437 for someone with a high-school diploma or $47,613 to someone with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The 77-page study outlines all the costs to society in great detail. But to me, the mercenary message that 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th graders need to hear over and over is: “You’ll make more money if you graduate.”

Dropouts who think they’ll just get a job often don’t. The study says only 39 percent of dropouts were employed in the city in 2006. That was when the economy was ascendant. Millions of jobs have been wiped out since then.

Another study released yesterday noted Philadelphia boosted its graduation rate by 23.2 percentage points between 1995 and 2005. Impressive progress, but still only 62.1 percent of Philadelphia School District students graduate, according to the report prepared for America’s Promise Alliance.

A lot of things are out of our personal control. Graduating from high school in the richest country on earth should not be one of them.


“We’re watching things very closely but will pounce only when the sun, moon and stars align.”

- Peter Carlino, CEO of Penn National Gaming Inc. , the Wyomissing-based operator of racetracks and casinos, told Bloomberg News referring to possible acquisitions of properties on the Las Vegas Strip.