A diploma isn't enough

Without postsecondary training, high school graduates in Philadelphia struggle to earn a living, reports Johns Hopkins’ Everyone Graduates Center in Untapped Potential. Graduates worked more and earned more than dropouts, but many diploma-only graduates remained below the poverty line.  Only 35 percent of dropouts reported any income; those who worked averaged 25 weeks of employment and $9,000 in earnings. Those with only a high school diploma averaged $12,000 in earnings.  As time goes on, the earnings gap widens.

High school graduates experience greater earnings growth than dropouts, but the upward slope is much steeper for those with at least some postsecondary education.

Students who lack the motivation or academic skills to earn a college degree should be encouraged to aim for a vocational certificate at a community college. The effort will pay off.

About Joanne


  1. A high school diploma doesn’t necessarily mean that even basic literacy and numeracy been achieved, nor have the habits (neatness/appropriate dress, politeness, reliability, willingness to follow directions/learn new skills) which are essential for workplace success. These things used to be found in most high school graduates, even those who were on general/vocational tracks.

  2. That’s what happens when you rate schools on their dropout rate but not the quality of their graduates, and racial disparities in results are considered prima facie evidence of discrimination.

  3. Glen Thomas says:

    So, there is an association between poor school performance and poor earning capacity. But does is it the education that makes a youngster employable, or is the lack of decent qualifications simply an indicator that the person does not have the motivation to find or hold down a decent job?

    The motivation that is needed to achieve higher qualifications is probably more important than the skills they learn, but this report doesn’t add much to the discussion.