Mar 6, 2006

Study: Most Dropouts Regret Decision

Share
(Washington, DC) It seems to be an obvious conclusion, but a new study confirms what has been a sort of conventional wisdom: most students who drop out of high school in the US believe that they made a mistake by quitting.

Three out of four respondent said that if they could go back in time they would choose to stay in school, while eight out of 10 participants in the survey said they now recognized that a diploma was a necessary ingredient to success.

Many of the dropouts interviewed were not problem students, and more than 6 out of ten had grade averages of C or better.

The study, conducted by Peter Hart Research Associates and commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, calls for additional tracking of high school dropouts, and advocates raising the legal dropout age to 18. Currently, many states have compulsory school attendance ages of 16 or 17. Ohio defines the compulsory school age as a range from 6-18, but contains loopholes for exemption.

A high school dropout earns about $9,200 less per year than a high school graduate. The same person earns about $1 million less over a lifetime than does a college graduate.

One of my biggest regrets in life was dropping out of college in the 1980s to go into business. While I learned a great deal as an independent business owner, I have little to show for my period of being an entrepreneur beyond knowledge and memories.

I am currently enrolled in a graduate program and weighing PhD options now, trying to make up for lost time. I often wonder where I might be had I stayed in school instead of being lured by the temptation of of owning my own business.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I may have to get back to the university myself, Mike. It's been two years after my one-term "break," and I am still not back.

--Petrograde

Lisa Renee said...

I tend to look at it the other way, while I didn't finish college as I had originally planned, what has happened to me both the good and the bad has made me what I am today.

Had I taken a different route then many of the other things that I've experienced would never have happened. Yes, a combination of "It's a wonderful life" and "The Butterfly Effect" yet both are true. One small change could create many different outcomes. So while it at time has been a very bumpy ride? I'm not sorry I did things the way I have.

I used to wonder what if, but then I realized how many things would have changed. Had I finished school I would have never married either of my first two husbands and probably not Miguel either. I wouldn't have had the children I have, sure I might have had children but they wouldn't be the same because they would have had different fathers. Maybe I would have spared myself some of the really hard times we've gone thru, but it is those hard times that were a part of how I came to be the way I am at this moment in time. Ironically, both of my ex husband's did not graduate from high school. Both are in very high paying union jobs, more than Miguel makes who did go to college and graduate. So while it may be true that overall high school drop outs earn less, it also depends on what sort of college degree you obtained and if there is a market for that skill. It is also harder today because the type of union/factory jobs that both ex's have are much harder to get but I also know alot of former convergys employees that had degrees in IT related fields that are still to this date under-employed.

I think it boils down to not necessarily a degree but skills and a bit of luck thrown in.

:-)

-Sepp said...

Back in high school when I already knew everything, I couldn't have dropped out if I wanted to. My Grandfather was a teacher at Macomber and education was a stressed priority for the entire family. Maybe if we brought shame back into the equation or stopped handing out "self esteem" like it was halloween candy and actually made kids earn it, the dropout problem would spiral downward. Kids are being taught that they need not be sorry for anything and that self esteem and respect are simply given and not earned and then we toss them out into the business world where everything they have been taught is 180 degrees off the grid. Not only that, where has discipline gone? We need cops to roam the hallways to keep order? The only time I ever saw a cop at Bowsher when I went there, was when somebody brought weed to school and got caught. Now a cop is a permenant fixture.

Stephanie said...

I never dropped out of high school, but I didn't finish college despite getting off to a "free" start (I spent the last two years of high school exclusively attending college classes). While I do not regret choosing marriage and motherhood over continuing my college education, I am going back to college now because the skills and the recognition earned while getting one's degree does make a big difference in job marketability.

Not all the high school drop-outs I personally know have regretted their decision or even gone back for a GED however. Some people actually like working at fast food restaurants their entire life.

historymike said...

I know a few dropouts, and they regret their decision. One dropout I know talks to every teenager he sees, saying things like: "Make sure you finish school. You may not believe much of what you here from adults, but this is the most important thing you will hear."

Like Lisa, I have come to grips with my life decisions. I gained a lot of wisdom in my unorthodox paths, and perhaps I was meant to take a roundabout path through life.

Agreed, Sepp, that a dose of shame is healthy, and that too much concern is placed on self-esteem and not enough on self-discipline.

Stephanie: I am of the opinion that the BA in the 21st century is the equivalent of the HS diploma in the second half of the 20th century. It seems like an MA is now the standard for elevating oneself to higher economic opportunities.

liberal_dem said...

Kids are being taught that they need not be sorry for anything and that self esteem and respect are simply given and not earned

No they are not. This is your impression of what is being taught.

long time lurker, occasional poster said...

Where to start, where to start. Agreed a healthy dose of shame would do the student good, the problem is parents are no longer parents. They have become advocates, mouthpieces for their children. Nothing is allowed to "harm" their children, dodge ball - red ink marks on the paper - too much homework - not enough homework - blah blah yadda yadda. Discipline? The minute TPS took away the threat of corporal punishment the "inmates took control of the asylum".
Granted, school is not for everyone, but the real focus should be on what they do to change the situation that they are in. On the other hand parading the dropout to success stories does not help either, the kids think that when the going gets tough they can just go get the GED and all will be alright. What to do what to do? I'll mention a dirty word in education circles that I believe will help the situation. Tracking. For far too long in this country we have filled students heads with the belief that everyone can go to college. The bright kids get bored and lower kids get frustrated and two-thirds give up.

Trust me I know. You can't scare me I teach 8th grade.

historymike said...

Uh-oh, the dirty word "tracking was used.

:-}

This is a sensitive issue, but face it - very few people are going to be Rhodes scholars. I have a house full of kids, and as much as I might want them all to get PhDs, a couple of them will never get there.

A couple might.

By middle school, and definitely by high school, it is pretty clear which students are college material. Sure, there are a few who might be late bloomers, but after a couple of standardized tests and the requisite intervention, the high-potential students stand out.

No matter what our best intentions are, some people are cut out to stock shelves, sweep floors, and handle light assembly, and not much more.

It is better to gear some people toward future success in a job with modest requirements than it is to try and convince all children that they can be brain surgeons.

Some, unfortunately, will never get to that goal no matter how hard they work, nor should they.

There are some students I have seen in college who are in way over their heads. They struggle with basic math, composition, and lack the ability to function at a higher level.

But a counselor or parent has pushed them to strive for a goal - such as being a veterinarian - for which they lack the intellectual ability.

We need to be realistic with our recommendations for students. If a child scores a 7 on the ACT and has struggled to maintain a "C" average in a public school, why are we pushing that student into college? He or she will be much better off spending their time on developing basic work skills and putting together a record as a hard worker than they would wasting time (and space) in a college setting.

L T L, O P said...

You look at all the Education systems that we lag behind and you'll notice one thing, tracking in the schools. As an 8th grade teacher I see kids that want to be a doctor and they can't spell pediatrician. As a parent my kids are different they are geniuses why can't all the other parents realize that thier kids aren't and stop holding my kids back.

Stephanie said...

"I am of the opinion that the BA in the 21st century is the equivalent of the HS diploma in the second half of the 20th century."

You are certainly not alone in that opinion, Mike. However, I think a more appropriate way to look at it is that our society has gotten more specialized, which requires different skills and thus more education. It's gotten to the point that in order to be useful in the more lucrative employment positions, one must have specialized training.

Some few can get that while working in their field; more and more, however, need to be trained before they can even start. And, for the less specialized positions, some employers want their employees to have a college degree, any college degree, just to prove that said employee can survive and complete the rigors of college and thus is more likely capable of handling the rigors of employment.

I don't know if I'll go on to get a Masters or a PhD. I do know I have the intellectual capacity for it. It'll very much depend on whether I can properly balance the needs of my children and the needs of my future employer, and then add education on top of that.

I do know that the degree I seek will make me more marketable in my area upon completion...now. Whether an MA will be required three to four years from now when I complete my degree.... Only time will tell.

Stephanie said...

liberal_dem,

Have you been in a grade school recently?

Hooda Thunkit said...

Well I certainly regret not getting my engineering degree. From what I can see, the difference between an Associate's and an Enginerer is at least $60,000/yr.

My son did get his degree (computer science), but can't afford the time to go back for his Masters.

His "skills" were so well developed that his current "job" pays what I would expect he would have made with a Masters...

liberal_dem said...

Mike wrote:

No matter what our best intentions are, some people are cut out to stock shelves, sweep floors, and handle light assembly, and not much more.

Wow. This comment surprises me. Surely you speak of the MR/DD student, but hopefully not of the regular students.

IF a student does not succeed in school, whose responsibility is it to see that he/she succeeds?

There are many students [and a growing number these days] for whom our present school system is a failure. The American school model was set up not to produce inquisitive, problem-solving graduates, but rather, obedient factory workers for industry.

It does not meet the needs of many students who learn in alternative ways and have untapped abilities waiting to be touched by the right teacher, the right curriculum.

Many inmates of our prisons were victims of this archaic school model. The 'dropouts' found that this educational model did not inspire them, did not unlock their curiosity, their dreams.

Yet, we continue with this same tired model, even as other aspects of our society continue to change and improve year-by-year. No adult today would enjoy driving a 1940 Hudson or listen to AM radio as aa night's entertainment, but we expect the child of the 21st century to be happy with wooden desks, paper, pencil and a blackboard, listening to a teacher blab away all day.

[to Stephanie- indeed I've been in a classroom lately, many of them]

Peahippo said...

HM, if a BA is now "necessary", then $20-40K of starting life debt is now "necessary". That fact alone should give you pause to consider what, exactly, you're advocating when you allegedly recognize such things.

As for myself, this kind of thing is a war to the end. I don't need a degree to (1) bring value to my work, and (2) retroactively authorize the kind of work that I have done before, and am doing now. In fact, since this is a war, I'm adopting a fighting stance; I'm never getting a degree, since to do so I'd have to admit that my work experience is worth NOTHING.

There used to be a complete lackwit on ToledoTalk named "Chaz", who was some retired UT administrator. He could not see beyond his extremely narrow view of the world, in that he constantly pounded the virtual table about higher education. We have too many degreed people in unemployment lines, and as well, doing work that required no degrees before. If people like Chaz have their way, we'd have a markedly swelled population of B- and M-level degreed people doing jobs that simply had no such requirement in the past. Most of these people would be in significant debt. This debt would suck the very life out of their ability to participate as citizens and consumers. And employers would use this mass of over-educated (more precisely, "needlessly educated") people to superqualify all jobs.

Needless education is a great way to drive up individual lifestyle costs. We can't all be degreed people, since that would just mean degreed people waiting tables and such. Furthering education is a terrible way to advance a society's workers' lives in general.

And need I end up this posting by reminding people how more offshorable a white-collar degreed job is, over a non-degreed or blue collared one?

historymike said...

LD:

I'm not pushing for a return to rigid tracking, just making realistic decisions about individuals.

Yes, this is the land of opportunity, and I don't want to sound like an elitist, but there are some people at the lower end of the spectrum (say, below a 70 IQ) who will probably never be able to graduate college. We are doing them a disservice by pushing them into something for which they lack talent.

Yes, this would be the MR/DD populations, as well as people just above this range.

historymike said...

Guest Zero:

I am in complete agreement that degree-inflation is nothing more than a form of class differentiation, and a mechanism to separate social elites from the rest of the population.

It is also an artificial means by which employers can discriminate.

I am only pointing out reality, not advocating advanced degrees as a sign of merit.

I am the first to admit that attaining a degree is as much learning how to jump through the right hoops and playing a game as it is a reflection of ability.

There will always be people whose talent and drive carry them far despite their refusal to play the game. Off the top of my head I think of Dave Thomas, late founder of Wendy's International, who was only a HS grad.

But - to play the corporate game, an advanced degree is the "ticket" to the dance.

I am pursuing a PhD because an MA is almost worthless in a university setting (excepting a few disciplines). I have chosen to play this game, and I recognize that the degree is nothing more than the proverbial piece of paper, akin to a lottery receipt.

I have managed to keep my debt low so far, having attained an MA assitantship and some scholarships. By snagging a PhD assistantship I hope to avoid much more debt.

My plan is to stay under $40K in accumulated debt from BA through PhD.

-Sepp said...

"There are many students [and a growing number these days] for whom our present school system is a failure".

No kidding? One problem might lie in the local teacher's union and their "work to rule" mode of thinking. Or maybe some kid's parents don't know / don't care or maybe some kids have no motivation since they already have been granted self esteem.

"The American school model was set up not to produce inquisitive, problem-solving graduates, but rather, obedient factory workers for industry".

That sounds more like the school model for the soviet union or some other failed socialist utopia.

The school model I grew up with wasn't designed to churn out factory drones by a long shot. 25 - 32 kids in a classroom was normal and strangely enough the teacher had control and still managed to teach us all how to read, spell and do math. We played dodgeball and, had red ink marked on wrong answers with no ill psycological effect that carried on into adulthood. We listened to and gave the proper respect to the teacher without having to be drugged every 4-6 hours for hyperactivity. Hyperactivity was cured by gymclass and recess. A.D.D used to spell the word "add" instead of being a "disease".

"we expect the child of the 21st century to be happy with wooden desks, paper, pencil and a blackboard, listening to a teacher blab away all day."

Yes LD, we do. That tried and true method has always worked until folks like yourself put the focus on what makes the kid happy rather than what the kid needs to know to become a productive member of society rather than a product of society.

Calico Jack said...

I know several people who dropped out of High School. One man, who is now in his fifties, dropped out of school to go to work in the coal mines of Tennessee. When he turned eighteen he enlisted in the Army and went off to Vietnam where he made a living killing little yellow people. He returned to the United States and mustered out as a sergeant. He quit Tennessee and headed North, where he lied about his education and got into the tool and die business. He’s done well for himself, and is ready to retire on a very comfortable investment portfolio. All three of his kids completed college.

My neighbor dropped out because he got a girl pregnant and had to go to work to support his new family. The wife turned out to be nuts and violent, so he divorced and raised the daughter himself. Big Nick (he’s really big, well over six feet and powerfully built) used to sit with his little girl and play the little girl type board games with her. Once when a few friends came to call Nick answered the door wearing some kind of little tiara and holding an official little princess wand. After the laughter subsided, three more grown men sat down and played the game as well. Nick’s little girl is in her junior year of High School, takes all honors classes, does a little volunteer work on the side, has a 4.0 GPA and has received three scholarships so far. TU has offered a free ride, including books. Case Western has also made an offer.

Another person I know dropped out when she was sixteen, then several years later went back for her GED and got a college degree in English. She is a successful editor of a small newspaper in California that has won several awards under her leadership.

Hindsight being 20/20, I should never have stayed in school. I should have quit at the first opportunity and taken the GED test, then continued into college. When I was in public school, I felt I was surrounded by howler monkeys.

Public school is crap. It was crap then, it’s crap now. The system is designed to employ people who will never be successful in the private sector. I went to Sylvania, and the number of teachers and administrators that I’d hire for a responsible position of any kind could be counted on one hand. Contrast that with Maumee Valley Country Day School where the reverse is true.

HistoryMike is quite right. There are any number of students who will never get a degree of any kind. They need a secure position performing physical, or skilled physical labor. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but our society tends to look down on a person that is happily employed as a janitor.

liberal_dem said...

sepp:

Yes LD, we do. That tried and true method has always worked until folks like yourself put the focus on what makes the kid happy rather than what the kid needs to know to become a productive member of society rather than a product of society.

I did that? Wow. Who knew that I had this kind of control over the children of America.

From now on I'll be known as The Great and Powerful LD!

...now what was that line of bull again, Sepp?

Stephanie said...

"...but we expect the child of the 21st century to be happy with wooden desks, paper, pencil and a blackboard, listening to a teacher blab away all day."

You say you've been in a classroom (I asked if you've been in a grade school) and the archaic model you've described leads me to believe not so much.

Students do NOT just sit at desks, listening to teachers blab. At least, I didn't, and my kids don't. My kids have been in only one school district, but I've been to many school districts as a student. Only one (in Minnesota) followed the model you described, and yeah it was boring as hell, but it was only one in all my experience. (We moved around a LOT. I attended three different schools in sixth grade alone.)

I've looked at my children's curriculum. I've listened to their classes and yes, children are being taught that they automatically deserve self-esteem and respect. And, that archaic model you described...isn't what's being used at all. Movement, computers, projects, activities, that's what's being used to educate our children.

Oh, even my children, who are some of the "MR/DD student"s you were talking about, get better educations than the one's you described. You're right that the model you described is archaic and shouldn't be used, however it's too bad for you (but great for our kids) that many school districts discoverd that, and implimented the necessary changes, decades ago.

There are a few backwards states, and perhaps Ohio (if that's where you're at) is amongst them, but to blame the in-mate population on such factors is a fallacy considering that states that do not hold to your archaic model still have problems with crime.

Stephanie said...

Calico Jack,

"...but our society tends to look down on a person that is happily employed as a janitor."

Another bit of collateral damage from the rat race. The push to climb the corporate ladder has certainly made people more likely to denigrate honorable, worthwhile professions. A janitorial position can be a position of excellence, where doing one's job well is rewarded both professionally and personally.

I have much more of a problem with fast food. Those are rarely positions of excellence. They drive to make things fast and cheap, with quality only being enough of a priority to keep the food inspectors happy. That bothers me a helluva lot more.

historymike said...

Yes, I think a janitor's job has a quiet sort of dignity, and there is an element of autonomy that goes along with it (provided one gets the work done, or does not have a dictatorial, micro-managing boss).

I have never been as happy in my life as when I left the upwardly-mobile corporate world, and took a bunch of so-called "crappy" part-time jobs (bartender, package handler, waiter, pizza delivery) to supplement my writing income from 2000-2004.

I called it the "job-of-the-month club." When you get tired of one low-level job, get another.

It was a momentarily humbling, but ultimately liberating expeience after almost 20 years as a corporate manager and independent business owner.

I was once again just another "spoke in a great big wheel," as Bob Seger once put it. No more mind games, just plain work.

While those jobs were not glamorous, they were free from pretentiousness. Work hard, make your dough, and leave the job behind.

While I don't miss this type of work, there is a lot to be said for a reduction in stress (once you get over the ego trip associated with corporate management).

Stephanie said...

"I was once again just another "spoke in a great big wheel," as Bob Seger once put it. No more mind games, just plain work."

The major problem with me being another "spoke in a great big wheel" is that most jobs available around here do not offer the flexibility necessary to meet the medical needs of my children. If not for that, then I'd have a whole lot less drive to own my own business.

historymike said...

Agreed on that one, Steph. I have four part-time jobs, and none of them offer benefits.