The High Cost of Wisconsin’s High School Dropouts

Christian D’Andrea:

High school dropouts adversely impact the state of Wisconsin each year–financially and socially. Dropouts’ lower incomes, high unemployment rates, increased need for medical care, and higher propensity for incarceration create a virtual vortex that consumes Wisconsinites’ tax dollars at a vicious rate. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on these high school dropouts every year.
Not only does the state spend hundreds of millions of dollars on high school dropouts, the Wisconsin economy missed out on $3.7 billion in 2011 due to a lower average income for residents without a diploma.
This study examines the state’s costs across three major state funding mechanisms: state tax collections, Medicaid expenses, and the costs of incarceration. All three aspects compose substantial parts of Wisconsin’s operating budget. In 2010 alone, prison expenses cost the state more than $874 million (1).
However, these costs could be reduced if the state had a smaller population of these under-educated adults. By eliminating a group of residents that typically relies more on state-based aid and is more likely to end up in prison, Wisconsin could save hundreds of millions of dollars each year. These funds could have instead been invested in other efforts to improve the lives of Wisconsinites across the Badger State.