CASPER, Wyo. — Local economies lose when students don't graduate from high school, according to a report released earlier this week.
The study from the Alliance for Excellent Education, a national nonprofit education policy group, projects the economic impact of Casper and Cheyenne students who would have graduated in 2010, estimating individual earnings, home sales, tax revenue and other economic indicators.
The study estimates 400 high school students from each city dropped out before they would have graduated in 2010. A report released in March for the whole state estimated 1,000 dropouts during a four-year period.
Economic benefits were calculated from research linking high school graduates to employment and spending statistics. In March, the unemployment rate was highest among those without a high school diploma at 15.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
By cutting the number of dropouts in half, the state would have seen an $8.1 million boost in economic growth by the time students reached the midpoints of their careers. An extra 1,000 graduates from the class of 2010 would spend an additional $4.9 million, not including home purchases, and invest $1.8 million more, according to the report.
If 200 more students had graduated in each metro area, Casper and Cheyenne would have received a boost from:
-- Spending more on home purchases than they would without a diploma (Casper, $3.2 million; Cheyenne, $4.5 million);
-- Increasing the gross regional product by the time they reach the midpoint of their careers (Casper, $1.7 million; Cheyenne, $2.3 million);
-- Earning more in an average year than they would without a diploma (Casper, $1.4 million; Cheyenne, $1.9 million).
The Natrona County School District's dropout rate has been steadily falling since 2006-07, when 8.3 percent of ninth- through 12th-grade students disenrolled from high school. In 2008-09, the most recent calculation available, 6.3 percent of Natrona County high school students disenrolled. Statewide, the rate dropped to 3.8 percent.
Decreasing the number of dropouts and improving the graduation rate begins before students set foot in a high school, Superintendent Joel Dvorak told school board members Monday.
"Kids don't automatically get dumb when they get into a high school," Dvorak said. "Kids don't automatically get disengaged when they get in a high school."