Dropping Out, Opting In

Why the National Guard's Youth ChalleNGe Program for High School Dropouts is a Solid Social Investment

by Francisco Perez-Arce, Louay Constant, David S. Loughran, Lynn A. Karoly

Dropping out, Opting in

Why the National Guard’s Youth ChalleNGe Program for high school dropouts is a solid social investment

High school dropouts are more likely than graduates to commit crimes, abuse drugs and alcohol, have children out of wedlock, earn low wages, be un- or underemployed, and experience poor health. But individuals and families aren’t the only ones who suffer: Society bears costs, too, paying for dropouts’ increased dependency on welfare, increased criminal activity, and decreased engagement in community service.

RAND researchers studying the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program — an intensive residential and mentoring program for qualified dropouts ages 16 to 18 — found that the benefits associated with the program more than repay society’s investment in it.

154 Days

Time a cadet spends in residence at a base or training center

22 Greater

Chance that a cadet will get a GED, compared with nonparticipants

18 Months

Time a cadet spends in a post-residential mentoring relationship

2,266 More

Change in a cadet’s monthly wages, compared with nonparticipants

$15,436 in Costs

Program cost per cadet, in terms of operating and opportunity costs

$40,985 in benefits

Program benefits per cadet, in terms of additional lifetime earnings, reduced social welfare dependency and criminal activity, and increased community service

The Bottom Line $166% Return on Investment

NOTE: Costs and benefits are estimates of the present discounted value and include deadweight loss of taxation.
SOURCE: A Cost-Benefit Analysis of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, Francisco Perez-Arce, Louay Constant, David S. Loughran, Lynn A. Karoly, RAND/TR1193, 2012.

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