Oct. 2012 Column

According to the U.S. Census and the American Community Survey, a high school diploma is declining in value.  A person who had a high school diploma in 1970 earned an average of $50,000 annually.  A high school graduate today, using comparable earnings, make $30,000 – almost half as much as the same worker more than 40 years ago.

What has created this deficit?  The short answer is the demand for higher skills in almost every occupational field. High school dropouts earn an average of $9,600 less annually than a high school graduate according to the Alliance for Excellent Education. There are several reports that place students with G.E.D.s at the same income level as a high school dropout. According to findings by James Heckman of the University of Chicago, a person with a GED has the same outcome as a high school dropout in annual income, unemployment rate, divorce rate, and use of illegal drugs.

I do not believe every person should attend college. However, I do believe every person should have the skill set to attend an institution of higher education if they so choose.  In order for each person to acquire those skill sets, they must be prepared through our K-12 public educational system. Students (and parents) have opportunities to decide the level of difficulty in course work for their high school diploma.  Advanced Placement and NMJC’s Lea County Distance Education Consortium (ITV) offer classes which can be challenging to students, yet rewarding by preparing them for collegiate curriculums. Students who choose to take “regular” classes still held to a high standard at Hobbs Municipal Schools because the staff understands the importance of learning at the high school level.

If a person who receives an Associate of Art’s or Bachelor’s degree earns 20 percent more than a high school graduate and 30 percent more than a high school dropout, how are Hobbs High School graduates fairing in college? The latest statistics show our graduates require fewer remedial courses in college than most of their peers who graduate from similar high schools. Statistics indicate that 36 percent of HHS graduates required remedial college classes in their first few years of college. Compare that figure to high school graduates from Albuquerque Public Schools – 49 percent – Alamogordo – 43 percent – Carlsbad – 54 percent – and Clovis – 51 percent. These statistics are only for institutions of higher education in New Mexico as we are unable to attain data from states beyond our boundaries.

I admit Hobbs Municipal Schools is not perfect.  We take our fair share of negative comments and criticism, but when we show positive trends the staff and students should be rewarded for their accomplishments.  

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