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Report says Alberta should raise dropout age to 17

High school dropouts cost taxpayers $15,850 a year

A United Way study calls on the Alberta government to raise the high school dropout age from 16 to 17. “It’s shocking that in 2011 we have 3,000 students a year that are dropping out of high school in Calgary,” United Way’s director of poverty initiatives, Loreen Gilmour, said. The organization estimates that youth who dropout cost taxpayers $15,850 in health care, social assistance, crime and other costs. Gilmour said that while many young people who leave high school before graduation would prefer to return, they may be discouraged because they would be unable to pay their living expenses. “We just need to figure out how to reduce some of these barriers so we don’t trap people,” she said. Other recommendations from the report are providing free secondary education until age 24, instead of 19, and creating a provincial youth secretariat.