Millions of dollars would flow back into the Inland Empire economy if just half of the high school students who dropped out last year completed their education, according to a study released today.
The Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metropolitan statistical area was among 16 MSAs in the state analyzed by the nonprofit Alliance for Excellent Education, which studied the economic returns lost as a result of young people quitting school early.
"The best economic stimulus is a high school diploma,'' said AEE President Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia. "From the individual student to the bank branch manager, new car salesman, or Realtor, everyone wins when more students graduate from high school.''
According to the study, in January, the national unemployment rate was twice as high for workers without a high school diploma.
Research showed that in the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metro area, 27,700 students dropped out of high school in the 2009-10 academic year.
In the Lake Elsinore Unified School District, the high school drop-out rates have seen a steady increase in recent years.
During the 2008-09 school year, the district's graduation rate was 82.99 percent, compared to 88.7 percent in the 2007-08 school year, and 90.85 percent in 2006-07.
"Cutting that number of dropouts in half for this single high school class could result in tremendous economic benefits to the region,'' the study concluded.
According to the study's findings:
-- The 13,850 "new graduates'' would collectively earn as much as $184 million more in an average year;
-- they would have an additional $134 million in aggregate spending power;
-- their higher income would translate to $585 million in increased home sales and $17 million in additional auto sales;
-- the gross regional product would increase an estimated $251 million, supporting 1,650 new jobs; and,
-- tax revenue would grow $23 million in an average year.
According to the study, 19 of the metro area's 113 high schools are among the "lowest-performing'' in the nation because fewer than 60 percent of freshmen progress to their senior year.
The other MSAs studied were Bakersfield, Chico, Fresno, Los Angeles-Long Beach, Modesto, Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Santa Barbara-Santa
Maria, Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Santa Rosa-Petaluma and Stockton. --City News Service and Toni McAllister contributed to this report.