Adult-education spending pays long-lasting dividends

Over 150,000 Rhode Islanders need adult-education help

Guest Column: Carol Holmquist
There is an old adage that you must spend money to make money. More

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OP-ED

Adult-education spending pays long-lasting dividends

Over 150,000 Rhode Islanders need adult-education help

Guest Column: Carol Holmquist
Posted 1/9/12

There is an old adage that you must spend money to make money.

Amid the economic difficulties facing federal, state and local government budget makers, spending more for anything these days may seem counterintuitive.

However, a new report, “ROI of Adult Education,” by the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation, demonstrates that public support for adult education and training programs can actually boost our economy.

“The current sharp focus on deficit reduction in Washington, D.C., and in state capitals around the country obscures the very real economic benefits U.S. society derives from its public investment in adult education and work force development programs,” wrote the report’s authors, Lennox McLendon, executive director, National Council of State Directors of Adult Education Professional Development Consortium; Debra Jones, California director, Adult Education Chair, NAEPDC Research Workgroup; and Mitch Rosin, editorial director, McGraw-Hill School Education Group.

“It is important to keep in mind – especially during tough economic times – that a pre-emptive focus on adult education actually saves government money by reducing societal health care, public assistance and incarceration costs,” they wrote. “Adult education also improves and expands the nation’s available pool of human capital by helping motivated but under-educated people achieve gainful employment in today’s increasingly high-tech and

job market, and at a far lower cost per learner when compared to either K-12 or higher education.”

The report cited the work of The Alliance for Excellent Education, which used sophisticated economic-modeling techniques to determine how local economies in the nation’s 45 largest metropolitan areas would have fared had only half of the dropouts from the high school class of 2008 managed to graduate. They found that they would have contributed the following additional combined economic benefits to their communities in an average year:

• $4.1 billion in additional earnings, compared to their likely earnings without a diploma.

• An additional $2.8 billion in spending and $1.1 billion in investments.

• They would have bought homes worth $10.5 billion more in mid-career that they would have been able to buy as dropouts, and they would have spent another $340 million on motor vehicles each year.

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