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Report: Higher Graduation Rates Equal Lower Crime Costs

Pennsylvania could save as much as $737 million in annual crime costs if the male high school graduation rate increased by 5 percent. That’s according to a report released by the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Nationally, annual savings could total $18.5 billion.

Research from the Department of Justice shows that 67 percent of inmates in state prisons, 56 percent of federal inmates and 69 percent of inmates in local jails did not complete high school.

“Just because someone drops out of high school doesn’t automatically mean that they’re going to come into contact with the criminal justice system,” said Jason Amos, vice president of communication at the alliance. “What research has shown is that they’re more likely to commit crime." 

When considering that the national average cost of educating a public school student is $12,643 annually and the average state cost for housing an inmate is $28,323, Amos said schools across the country need to keep students engaged and in school rather than sending them out and “fending on their own” for disciplinary reasons.

“We’d like for schools to be a little more creative about how they can keep the student within in the student environment rather than sending him out where they may run into things on the street that get them more involved into criminal behavior,” he said.

The difference between the cost of educating a student versus housing an inmate is not the only consideration. Crime costs also include property loss, drop in productivity, police protection as well as legal expenditures, according to Amos.

In addition to $737 million in annual crime-related savings in Pennsylvania, the report projects a $48 million boost  in  annual state earnings if the high school male graduation rate increased 5 percentage points.

“When someone graduates from high school and goes on to earn additional education, they’re going to be earning more money.," Amos said. "They’re not just putting those additional earnings under a mattress, they’re going to be spending then in the community. They’re going to be creating jobs. They’re going to be growing the economy where they are.”

A study published by National Council on Crime and Delinquency reports that “youth who drop out of school are three and a half times more likely than high school graduates to be arrested.”

Amos says that ultimately the focus should be to keeping the student engaged and in school.

“Criminal behavior that begins when a student is young can certainly continue into adulthood,” he said. “But if you can intervene early with these students when the problem is still relatively manageable and you can fix it right then, you can prevent the escalation in their activity that reaches a point where you have to send them out of the school.”

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