High school drop outs cost all of us
Alamosa Campus / September 28, 2016 / Written by Margaret Sanderson
The Colorado Adult Education Professional Association estimates each adult in our state who does not have a high school diploma or GED will cost the state about $524,000 over their lifetime in lower taxable income and increased social services expenses. September 26 through October 1 marks National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week with an aim of drawing attention to the importance of education.
“I’m dyslexic so it’s harder for me,” said Lillian Harris. “Having someone here (at Trinidad State’s Center for Adult Learning) makes it so much easier. I tried to study at home for my GED but it didn’t work well.” Harris moved here with her family from Alabama six years ago. She wants to go to college and study culinary arts but she needs to pass her high school equivalency exams first. Harris completed eighth grade but never started high school. She is interested in cooking Jamaican cuisine and hopes to own a restaurant someday.
According to the National Coalition for Literacy, 36 million adults in the United States have limited academic skills. The United States Census reported a five-year estimate from 2010-2014 indicating 332,246 adults in Colorado did not have the equivalent of a high school degree. Instructors at the Center for Adult Education on both the Valley Campus and the Trinidad Campus at Trinidad State assist those who never completed their high school educations, increasing their opportunities for employment. The classes are free. According to Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, “Nearly 90 percent of job vacancies in Colorado between 2008 and 2018 will require a high school credential and/or postsecondary credential.”
Jonathan Hoff never finished high school because he had a chance to go to work and make money, but he has learned, “It’s hard to get a job if you don’t have a GED or high school degree.” Hoff wants more opportunities for different jobs. He wants to get certified in construction. He’s excited about the Adult Education program because “I can get help when I need it and I’m learning new things.”
The Adult Education Director at the Trinidad State Valley Campus, Anna Mae Rael-Lindsay said, “In 2015, the Center for Adult Learning at the Valley Campus accepted 122 applications to the HSE (high school equivalency) program. Of these, 50 percent took the pre-test and attended classes, 70 percent of those who took classes and were post-tested progressed one grade level or above in either reading or math. Of these, ten students completed the requirements and passed all four of the tests (Math, Reading/Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies).”
Dylan Moore wants to move on to college at Trinidad State after completing his high school equivalency degree. He dropped out of high school when he was a junior. “I felt like I let my parents down,” said Moore. “It has been difficult to return to school, but here doors are opening. I want to study auto mechanics.” He continued, “Things are bad at home. I have a little brother who’s getting in trouble. I want to show him there’s a way out. Coming to Alamosa has been the best thing for me, because I didn’t think there was a way out of the criminal justice system. I’m hopeful now.”
In 2015 forty-two of the students who came to the program were self-referrals while 19 were sent by Community Corrections, Probation/Courts, Department of Human Services or other agencies. Currently she has 30 students enrolled. Both Hoff and Moore were sent to Trinidad State by Community Corrections. According to CAEPA, “those without a high school diploma or GED are 8 times more likely to become incarcerated and 77 percent are more likely to return to prison when no credential is achieved.“ The cost of prison in Colorado averages $30,375 per inmate.
“Although most students coming in say they completed between grades 9 to 11, 75 percent will test no higher than a 6 to 8 grade level,” said Rael-Lindsay. Rael-Lindsay said since 2001, a total of 1,467 students have been served by the Adult Education program at the Valley Campus. Of those, 330 students, which represents approximately 25 percent of the total enrolled, have earned GED diplomas.
A 2016 report by Pro Literacy stated that “minimum wage workers increased wages by 18-25 percent within 18 months of exiting an adult education program.”
Information gathered from COABE (Commission on Adult Basic Education) reported that for every dollar in adult education services, a community gets $60 back in decreased welfare costs, tax revenue and economic activity.
As President of the CAEPA (Colorado Adult Education Professional Association), Rael-Lindsay will welcome the over 200 educators registered for the annual CAEPA conference on October 13-14, at the Westin Hotel in Westminster. Over 40 workshop sessions will address the conference theme – ‘Empowering (Adult) Learners through Partnership and Innovation.’ Rael-Lindsay said that 60 personnel within the prison education system will be attending. The keynote speaker, Mickie Lewis, works closely with the criminal justice system developing and facilitating programs to help citizens reintegrate into community after incarceration. Also featured is Trinidad State President, Dr. Carmen Simone, who will talk about Adult Education and community colleges.
In 2011 10,639 adults passed the GED test in Colorado. CAEPA data states that the yearly average cost of adult education is $364 per student – 80 times less than the cost of one year in prison.