CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia could save $100 million annually in crime-associated costs just by increasing its high school graduation rate by 5 percent.
That's according to a new report from the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance for Excellent Education, an education advocacy group headed by former Gov. Bob Wise.
The report, released last week, also speculates that West Virginia could stand to earn $5.7 million in benefits to the state economy.
West Virginia's high school graduation rate was about 78 percent in 2010, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. That's on par with the national average of 78.2 percent for that year — the highest national average since the mid-1970s.
West Virginia's dropout rate has remained stubbornly high over the years, to the frustration of state education officials. In 2011, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin launched a campaign to prevent dropouts. It pairs education leaders with students and community members in an effort to prevent dropouts.
Education officials worry about dropouts because of their effects on the state and local economy, and on the students themselves. But this new report ties male dropouts to an increase in the crime rate, and the finances associated with that.
According to the report, the nation spends an average $12,643 to educate each student. The cost per inmate is $28,323. And young males are known to be more likely to commit crimes when they're not in school.
"Dropping out of high school does not automatically result in a life of crime, but high school dropouts are far more likely than high school graduates to be arrested or incarcerated," said Wise, who serves as president of the Alliance for Excellent Education.
According to data from the federal government, 56 percent of federal inmates, 67 percent of inmates in state prisons and 69 percent of inmates in local jails did not earn a high school diploma.
"The nation needs to focus dollars and efforts on reforming school climates to keep students engaged in ways that will lead them toward college and a career and away from crime and prison," Wise said. "The school-to-prison pipeline starts and ends with schools."
The report also speculates the number of individual crimes that could be prevented by increasing the graduation rate among high school males by 5 percent: assault would decrease nationally by 60,000, it estimates, larceny by 37,000, burglaries by 17,000.
Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.ma...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.