While still second only to Norway for graduates with bachelor degrees, the United States ranked 16th in the world for post-secondary graduation rates in 2011. Down from the top spot less than two decades ago.
Flora Teo president of Junior Achievement in Alaska spoke about the program and volunteer opportunities at the Chamber of Commerce lunch lecture, Thursday. She gave a short history lesson to show a growing need to focus on U.S. education.
In 1995 the US had the highest rate of graduation and highest private spending for education in the world.
“We spend about two times more per student than they do in Europe,” Teo said.
By 2001 the U.S. still spends the most on education, but our graduation rate drops behind 9 other countries. Still spending more than other countries, the U.S. was not even in the top fifteen in 2011.
Alaska has its own graduation woes.
Higher than the national average, Alaska high school students drop out at a rate of 32 percent, Teo said. At the same time Alaska has one of the lowest college enrollment rates for students enrolling right out of high school, 30 percent compared to the U.S. average of 46 percent, she said.
However, by the end of the decade Alaska businesses will require many more workers with at least some college education. According to projections done by Georgetown University, Teo said, 63 percent of jobs in Alaska will require post secondary education by 2018.
“Our ability to supply an educated labor force is going to be a problem,” Teo said.
Teo said there are lots of different ways Alaskans can help encourage students to graduate and to provide them with financial literacy and job and workforce readiness skills. Junior Achievement provides an opportunity to get business people into the classroom and introduce them to these concepts.
“So that by the time they graduate they know exactly how relevant their education will be,” Teo said.
JA helps highlight the relevance of a young person’s education, Teo said.
If students understand the trajectory of their education and what it can do for them in the future, they are more likely to graduate. Lacking this understanding results in a student more likely to drop out.
“Even with great teachers and strong support system at home,” Teo said.
Teo said many dropouts have said that somebody had explained the relevance of their education they would have been more likely to stay in school.
Junior Achievement worked with 441 Juneau students, K-12, in 2011 at a cost of about $40 per student.
Volunteers come from all walks of life. They spend one hour a week for five weeks with the program – half an hour on preparation and half an hour in the classroom. Team teaching is also an option for reluctant volunteers.
Junior Achievement has opportunities for volunteers who prefer options other than the classroom.
Past and present volunteers attending the chamber lunch said the teaching material was easy to use and effective.
Teo said volunteers have support in the classroom.
“A teacher stays with you in the classroom the whole time to handle unruly students,” Teo said.
For more information visit alaska.ja.org
• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.