Las Vegas Sun

August 22, 2017

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Report: High school dropouts cause state to pick up more medical costs

High school dropout rankings

In 2010, Nevada had 331,800 high school dropouts age 18 and older.

Here is a list of the top 15 states with the highest percentage of high school dropouts, age 25 and older, according to the National Center for Education Statistics:

• Texas: 20.4 percent

• Mississippi: 20 percent

• California: 19.4 percent

• Kentucky: 18.9 percent

• Louisiana: 18.8 percent

• Alabama: 18.5 percent

• Arkansas and West Virginia: 18.1 percent

• New Mexico: 17.5 percent

• Tennessee: 17.4 percent

• South Carolina: 17.1 percent

• Georgia: 16.5 percent

• Nevada, North Carolina, Rhode Island: 16.3 percent

• Arizona: 16.2 percent

• New York: 15.7 percent

• Florida: 14.8 percent

Reducing Nevada's high school dropout rate by half would save $30 million in Medicaid spending, according to a national report released Wednesday.

The Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington, D.C.-based education policy group, examined Medicaid usage rates among high school dropouts across the country. States contribute money to the federal program to provide health services to low-income families.

Research shows high school dropouts tend to have lower-paying jobs and poorer health than their counterparts who graduate high school. As a result, high school dropouts rely more heavily on state and federal resources, such as Medicaid.

The alliance found that the Silver State could save on health care costs by improving its high school graduation rates.

Nevada has the 12th highest percentage of high school dropouts age 25 and older in the country.

About 16.3 percent of Nevadans age 25 and older failed to complete high school, according to federal census data released in 2011.

By halving the dropout rate, Nevada would realize $29.8 million in Medicaid savings, according to the report. That translates to $1,485 in savings per graduate.

The alliance also found additional societal savings of about $37 billion in preventative costs related to smoking, obesity, alcoholism and heart disease.

"An educated citizen is a healthy, productive and happier citizen," Alliance for Excellent Education President and former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise said in a statement. "As this report shows, healthier citizens are also a great benefit to Nevada's economic health."

Nationally, cutting the number of high school dropouts in half would save $7.3 billion in annual Medicaid spending.

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