The financial ramifications of dropping out of high school hurt more than the individual. It’s estimated that half of all Americans on public assistance are dropouts. If all of the dropouts from the class of 2011 had earned diplomas, the nation would benefit from an estimated $154 billion in income over their working lifetimes. Potentially feeding that number is the fact that young women who give up on high school are nine times more likely to be, or become, young single mothers. A study out of Northeastern University found that high school dropouts cost taxpayers $292,000 over the course of their lives.

It’s not just about the money, though. Over 80 percent of the incarcerated population is high school dropouts — making this an issue that truly impacts every member of the community. Numbers are higher for dropouts of color; 22 percent of people jailed in the U.S. are black males who are high school dropouts. As a society, we are not just paying into public assistance programs for dropouts, but we are paying to protect ourselves against them through incarceration.