Focal Point: Absent Minds

Posted May 26, 2005 3:09 p.m. EDT
Updated May 18, 2015 1:17 p.m. EDT

Original Air Date: May 26, 2005

At first glance, North Carolina's dropout rate, as reported by the state Department of Public Instruction, does not seem all that bad. It's less than 5 percent for grades 9-12, but that's during a single school year.

A look at the bigger picture reveals a much more startling statistic -- about 40 percent of North Carolinaians who enter high school leave without a diploma. They depart without the necessary skills and education to enter the workforce or to continue their education.

Dropping out costs the students and the rest of us. Educators say a dropout is twice as likely to be unemployed, three times more likely to commit a crime and six times more likely to become an unwed teen parent.

About 75 percent of America's state prison inmates are dropouts. It costs about $25,000 per year to incarcerate an adult inmate and more than $60,000 a year for a juvenile offender.

Economists say one recent year's crop of dropouts in North Carolina could eventually cost the state $1.3 billion for prison, parole and welfare. Their diminished earning capacity could eventually cost the state $400 million in unrealized taxes.

"Absent Minds" looks at North Carolina's drop-out problem. It profiles students to examine why they drop out and what impact leaving school before earning a diploma has on them and their future. The program also explores dropout prevention and intervention programs that work, asks how they can be expanded to reduce the number of dropouts and considers what other measures our state should take to address the dropout problem.

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