Understanding The Importance of a High School Diploma

Studies find that those who earn a high school degree will greatly improve their financial future

By Curtis Ross
Posted 2012

Complete Your High School Diploma Online
Complete Your High School Diploma Online

“Don’t be a dropout.” “Stay in school.” Generations of high school students have heard these admonitions for decades, likely to the point that the meaning has been lost.

But if the slogans have aged, the important meaning behind them has only intensified.

A 2009 study, “Closing the Graduation Gap: Educational and Employment Conditions in America’s Largest Cities,” illustrates the steep climb of educational requirements

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“In 1975, a significant share of U.S. workers – 38% - had not completed a high school education. That group outnumbered college-educated workers by a margin of nearly three-to-one,” the study reported. “Three decades later, the situation had essentially reversed, as the percent of nongraduate workers had shrunk by half and the share of workers with a college degree doubled.”

The study goes on to note that only one group’s income level had declined in the period between 1975 and 2006: those without a high school diploma.

Sadly, graduation statistics suggest too many students either are unaware or unconcerned with such figures.

The study, which focused on the 50 largest cities in the United States, found that“three in ten students fail to finish high school with a diploma and … barely half of historically disadvantaged minority students graduate.”

A Cleveland Plain Dealer article summarized the story this way: “Persons without a diploma have the lowest labor force participation rate, the highest unemployment and the lowest income.”

It’s not just the dropout who suffers, though. What “Closing the Graduation Gap” refers to as the “graduation crisis” affects “communities in the form of reduced economic vitality and health on a broader collective scale.”

The study offers this stark conclusion: “At no point in our nation’s recent history has the economy found itself in such dire straits. And at no point has the critical role of a quality education been more evident. For individuals facing a worsening economy and weakening labor market, a strong education may offer the best protection for weathering the economic storm. Likewise, it is also clear that the brunt of the crisis will be borne by those with the least education - those without a high school diploma.”

The benefits to getting that diploma, though, are significant.

an article titled “Hidden Benefits: The Impact of Higher Education on Household Wealth” cites an Alliance for Excellent Education study that asked: “What would be the impact on this country's collective wealth if every head of household graduated from high school?”

The results were staggering. Using 2005 U.S. Census data, the study estimates an additional $74 billion in collective wealth would be generated if every head of every household earned a diploma.

Further, the article points out, the figure “represents much more than extra money in the pockets of low-income individuals. This figure represents the additional financial security and opportunities that are lost -by individuals, families, communities and states - because of an education system that is failing the approximately 1.2 million students who drop out of high school each year.“

High school dropouts looking to turn their fortunes around should return to school, if possible, or earn a General Educational Development, or GED, degree.

If pursuing an online high school diploma, make sure the online school is accredited by a reputable accrediting body. One step that can be helpful is to contact a nearby college or university and ask if they would accept a diploma from this school.

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