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Earning a High School Diploma: Its Impact on Students and the Economy

For the second quarter of 2019, YP Impact is focusing on helping students graduate from high school and earn their diploma. The positives gained from a high school education affect all aspects of a person’s quality of life, with one of the largest impacted being their potential for a higher income throughout their life. This not only helps lower many of the possible negatives effects a person encounters from not having a diploma or GED – such as poverty, personal health, and criminal activity; but also, their effect on all of us through the economy.

Currently, Washington state has a reported graduation rate of 79.3 percent, a slight increase from 79.1 percent the year before. While this may seem to be fairly good, it is almost five percent below the national average, sitting at 84 percent. And when broken down to look at individual demographics, there are many communities still suffering from much lower rates – African American students are graduating at a rate of 71.5 percent, American Indians at 60.3 percent and special education students are only at 59.4 percent. Though these numbers are all slowly increasing, we need to contribute more to the programs and issues, to start making significant jumps in these numbers.

Students studying in class (Photo Credit: US Department of Education)

A person with a high school diploma earns nearly 40 percent more than those without one, and those that go on to college earn 228 percent more. Recently the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) conducted a nationwide study, of all fifty states and 140 metro areas, on the impact that a 90 percent graduation rate would have on the economy. They used the class of 2015 as their basis with an 83.2 percent graduation rate, and the numbers were staggering when increased to 90 percent:

  • 250,000 additional students would have graduated from high school

  • 1 billion dollars in additional income would be earned annually by those graduates

  • 664 million more tax dollars would be contributed by midpoint in their careers, helping pay for schools, roads, and other government services

  • 7 billion dollars in economic growth would be built by their contributions

  • 14,000 new jobs created from that growth, lowering unemployment and government program costs

  • 1 billion would be saved in health care costs, from the associated healthier lifestyles

Underprivileged students work together in class (Photo Credit: Head in the Sand)

No one would ever deny that having more students graduate would be a great thing. There are so many benefits that come from higher graduation rates, and not only for the students. The hard part is once you look at the issue and dive into all the contributing factors that lead to someone dropping out of school, it can be overwhelming. As individuals, we may not be able to change the school system or fix poverty, but there are ways to help on a smaller scale and ways to combine your voice with others to make large changes. There are multiple great institutions within our community working to help students – where just giving your time can make a difference, including:

  • Friends of Youth – Runs a GED program, providing resources and tutoring for students

  • City Year – Serves students in areas of concentrated poverty, helping schools with limited resources

  • Career Link – South Seattle College program for students to earn their high school diploma

  • United Way – Provides services to multiple causes that contribute to student success

  • VOTE – Vote for funding to help our schools, programs, and nonprofits.

Want to make an immediate impact? YP Impact is collecting nonperishable snacks (i.e. trail mix, beef jerky, dried fruit, protein bars, chips, crackers, cookies, fruit cups, etc.) for our featured nonprofit of the quarter Friends of Youth at the front desk of at United Way of King County located at 720 Second Avenue Seattle, WA 98104  and ATLAS Workbase located at 500 Mercer St, Seattle, WA 98109 until May 17th. When dropping off items at United Way please mention Archana Verma’s name.


YP Impact is a budding community of young professionals with an interest in giving back to the community we live, work and play in.  If you’re interested in joining the community or just hearing more, visit this page and sign up to follow along.  


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