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It's simple math: More school = more $

October 06, 2000

It's simple math: More school = more $

By MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

The longer you stay in school, the more money you can earn. Period.

That's not to say there aren't some individuals who dropped out of high school and went on to make millions. But they're the exception, not the rule.


Consider the numbers: U.S. Census Bureau figures from 1998 show those who didn't graduate from high school earned an average of a little more than $16,000 a year. That same year, those who graduated brought in more than $23,500, while those who had a bachelor's degree earned more than $43,700.

So if the lure of a paycheck is stronger now than your drive to stay in the classroom, look ahead.

"You've got to think about where you are in life and where you want to be," said Vicki Jenkins, assistant principal of post-secondary programs at James Rumsey Technical Institute in Hedgesville, W.Va. Without a high school diploma, young people will get "the kinds of jobs nobody else wants," she said.


While running cash registers or cooking at fast-food restaurants can be great first-time jobs, the financial and professional benefits are limited.

"A job doesn't necessarily lead to a career," Jenkins said.

When young people are living at home and their only expenses are car payments and car insurance, making more than the $5.15 per-hour minimum wage may seem like a fortune. When they get out on their own, however, they learn their salaries aren't high enough to cover rent, electric, telephone and grocery bills.

"We get them back as adults later because they realize they can't advance," Jenkins said.

The lure of learning

If you choose to stay in school, whether through 12th grade or going on to achieve associate's, bachelor's or master's degrees, more doors open to a successful future.

"The better you're prepared, the better opportunities you have in the local work force," said Dalton E. Paul, executive director of vocational education at Franklin County Career & Technology Center in Chambersburg, Pa. He emphasized the importance of math, reading, reasoning and comprehension skills in addition to vocational abilities.

"Every student coming out of our education system today must be computer-literate," Paul added.

For those with job-related skills, "the sky's the limit," said Arnold Hammann, principal of Washington County Technical High School in Hagerstown.

Many employers look highly on education, even offering to pay for their employees to take classes.

"Employers are putting a lot of money into education in this community," Paul said.

Some of the hottest areas of employment now are transportation, printing, health care, manufacturing, computer technology, communications, construction and related fields, education and social work, educators said. But in order to get your foot in the door, you need an education.

"There's no room for a student dropout" unless an individual has a personal connection with an employer, Paul said.

"They shortchange themselves for future options," Hammann said.

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