The importance of having a high school diploma in today’s society

For seniors at Craig County High School, decorating their caps for graduation day is one of the most exciting days of their young lives. For a few students, their future aspirations are bleak when they do not obtain their graduating diploma. The CCPS system is taking as many steps as possible to help all of their students graduate.

Pam Dudding
Contributing writer

Teenagers sometimes hit rock bottom when they continuously hear, “I can’t hire you because you didn’t graduate high school.” Encouraging the younger generation to obtain their high school diploma is so important because it opens more doors for opportunities in their future.

The most recent data published by the US Department of Education (2016) shows that the national high school dropout rate is 6.1 percent. “This is down noticeably from years prior and is a big positive for many different reasons,” J.D. Carlin, a member of the Craig County Prevention Planning Team, said.

The Craig County Public School System (CPPS) considers this a positive mandate for every child in the school.

CCPS chose their Mission/Vision statement to be, “Every child a Graduate, Every Child Prepared for Life.” Superintendent Jeanette Warwick emphasized that their goal is always to have every child graduate that enters kindergarten.

Samuel C. Foster, II, Director of Instruction and Educational Technology, noted that CCPS uses two statistics for graduation. The first being the graduation rate which is the percentage of students who earn an advanced or standard diploma within four years. The other being the dropout rate, which is the percentage of students who discontinue schooling and do not earn a standard or advanced diploma. Less than five percent out students have dropped out annually over the last five years.

Foster added, “The problem with these calculations is they do not take into account students who earn a GED, or another diploma offered by the Commonwealth of Virginia. The rates only recognize students who have earned either a standard diploma or an advanced diploma. This is because the Federal Government does not recognize the other diplomas as official diplomas for graduation calculation.”

The CPPT team noted that, “With the school year back in session, now is a good time to review some of the reasons a high school diploma is so important.

•More money – While money certainly is not the most important thing in life, it also needed to pay bills, buy necessities and hopefully allow a vacation every now and then. According to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data (2015), a high school dropout earns approximately $10,000 less every year than a high school graduate. That is $300,000 over a 30-year career!!! And if that isn’t enough of a difference, a high school dropout earns approximately $33,500 less every year than a college graduate. This totals well over one million dollars over a 30-year career. A million dollars will not guarantee happiness or solve your problems, but it sure will help provide a lot more options and potential solutions.

•Lower risk of being unemployed – Simply put, people with a high school diploma have a better chance of being employed and staying employed than those without a high school diploma, according to a 2017 Bureau of Labor study.

•Military eligibility – In order to enter the United States military, a high school degree is usually required. There are a few exceptions, but these are usually for positions that offer little opportunity to progress in rank and still require a GED typically.

•Trade school or college eligibility – Whether wanting to attend a trade school, a two-year community college, a traditional four-year college or an online school, most will require a high school diploma. In the rare cases where a high school diploma is not required, additional coursework is usually needed to “catch up,” and the cost of extra classes are put on the person taking them.

•Feeling of success – Let’s face it…finishing high school feels good! It is a lifetime of work up to that point. It is something we can always go back to as an example of our ability to push through a challenge and excel. Graduating high school is not something to be taken lightly. It is a big accomplishment and something to be proud of for the rest of your life.

•Avoiding trouble – One study (Arum & Beattie, 1999) showed that 75 percent of all state prison inmates did not have a high school degree. Rates of teen pregnancy, criminal convictions and drug use are all higher for high school dropouts. In short, staying in school keeps people out of trouble.

For additional information, check out the CPPT website at

On a positive note, Craig County Schools has the Digital Academy to help students who struggle stay in school to graduate on time or to earn a GED if they are at least 16 years old and two grades behind.

“We have graduated 14 students with either a standard or advanced diploma and have had one student successfully complete the GED program over the past two years of its existence,” Foster shared. “We are very proud of all of our programs and we are doing everything we can to help students stay in school and earn a high school diploma.”

The team shared “Getting a high school diploma may be hard work, but it is hard work that pays off in a big way. This is an important message to continue to repeat to our youth. Education matters and that high school diploma is a big step forward in having a happy and healthy life. It is also a reminder of what can be accomplished and that may be the biggest positive of all.”

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