Study Says Georgia Dropouts Cost Almost $5 Billion; Natives Twice as Likely to Drop Out as Transplants

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A new study by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice & the Georgia Public Policy Foundation shows that each class of Georgia high school dropouts costs the state billions of dollars over the lifetime of those dropouts.

Georgia’s 38,000 high school dropouts in the class of 2007 will cost taxpayers $4.8 billion over their lifetime due to costs associated with incarceration, Medicaid and other government programs, according to a new study released by the Friedman Foundation and the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

Native Georgians were also more than twice as likely to drop out of high school as those who migrated to Georgia, according to the study entitled “The Economic and Fiscal Costs of Failing to Reform K-12 Education in Georgia.”

The study, released today, found that Georgia’s graduation rate is lower than many have estimated, at 65 percent, and that each new class of dropouts costs taxpayers $95 million annually for the rest of their lives. Dropouts earn $7,200 less a year than high school graduates and far less than college graduates.

In addition, high school dropouts have twice the rate of imprisonment, higher rates of addiction, more reliance on government assistance including Medicaid and a higher percentage of children out of wedlock.

“Not only does staying in school make a difference to the individual, but it makes a huge difference to taxpayers,” said Robert Enlow, President and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

Brian Gottlob, the study’s author, emphasized the real world impact of the high school diploma. “Because so many of Georgia’s young people fail to graduate from high school, a high percentage of native Georgians have not been able to contribute or fully participate in the fruits of Georgia’s new economy,” he said. “The inability of so many young citizens to realize their full potential imposes tremendous costs on all of Georgia’s citizens.”

The new study found that a modest school choice program that reduced dropouts by about 5,500 students annually would save taxpayers about $674 million over 50 years.

“This is an enormous check to continue to write,” said Kelly McCutchen, President of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. “It would be a much cheaper option to allow parents to choose to use their own tax dollars to send their child to a charter school or private school.”

Enlow agreed. “If graduation is the ultimate cost-benefit to society and the taxpayer, then school choice is the most cost-effective remedy we can offer for parents, students and those who have to pay taxes,” he said.

Please visit our website to read the full study at

About the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice:
Milton and Rose D. Friedman established the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice in 1996. We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization addressing the Friedmans’ long-standing concern about the urgent challenges facing America’s elementary and secondary education systems. The foundation’s philosophy asserts that the best way to improve the quality of education is to enable all parents to have unfettered free choice of the schools where they want to enroll their children, and to generate systemic competition among all schools in order to meet students’ needs.


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Paul DiPerna

Susan L. Meyers

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