Half a million. This is the U.S. Census estimated number of adults in Maryland who have less than a high school education. Many of these people are in their prime working years, with a significant number between the ages of 18–24. This is noteworthy because of the tremendous impact that education has on the future of the state’s economic stability.
According to the Maryland Association for Adult, Community and Continuing Education (MAACCE), on average, each high school dropout costs the U.S. economy about $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes and productivity over a lifetime, compared with a high school graduate. Assuming a person works from age 18 to age 65, this amounts to a loss of $7,222 per year. With 500,000 Maryland adults lacking a high school diploma, this potentially costs the state $3.6 billion each year.
In Maryland, the need for adult education services is statewide, and not just in urban or rural areas. According to the U.S. Census, while Howard County has a high school graduation rate of 95.2%, there are 5,320 adults in the county over the age of 18 lacking a high school diploma. Additionally, 4,544 adults over age 25 have less than a ninth grade education.
In Anne Arundel County, the high school graduation rate is 91.6%. However, 22,458 adults lack a high school diploma, with 9,389 adults over age 25 having less than a ninth grade education. Programs in both counties currently are able to serve about 10% of the adults needing adult education services.
By 2018, 63% of all U.S. jobs will require education beyond high school. Yet, nearly half of the U.S. workforce has only a high school education or less, and/or low English proficiency. By 2020, the American Action Forum projects that the United States also will be short an estimated 7.5 million private sector workers across all skill levels.
Additionally, the U.S. needs more middle-skill workers for hard-to-fill positions that require some training beyond high school, but less than a four-year college degree. According to the National Skills Coalition, 48% of the job openings in 2015 were for middle-skill jobs, but only 38% of the workers were trained for this level.
The demand for adults who can fill these types of jobs in Maryland also will remain strong. Through 2024, 42% of job openings will be for middle-skill positions. Educating motivated students with the skills that companies need provides qualified candidates for these positions.
Adult education brings businesses options by preparing existing workers with families and competing life responsibilities with the skills that companies need through flexible classrooms and curriculum.
Setting an Example
One example of a Maryland adult taking the necessary steps to prepare for a middle-skill career is Amanda Kline. At Harford Community College, she took free online classes to prepare for the GED (high school equivalency) test, which became a more rigorous computerized exam in 2014. With the support of Harford Community College teachers and staff, she passed her GED test and then completed her CMAA certification to become a certified medical administrative assistant.
As a single parent, Kline is excited about entering a career where she will be able to support herself and her young daughter. Her full story can be found at http://educateandelevate.org/adult-learner-success/#mamnda.
MAACCE represents more than 400 adult education professionals across Maryland. “One of our commitments is making Marylanders more aware of the need to support our state’s adult education programs,” said Douglas Weimer, MAACCE president. “This is a major reason we sponsor the annual Adult Education and Family Literacy Week in late September. This year, we were delighted that First Lady Yumi Hogan presented us with Gov. [Larry] Hogan’s Proclamation recognizing Sept. 24–30, 2017, as Maryland’s Adult Education and Family Literacy Week.”
According to Weimer, it is important for Maryland businesses to understand the role they play in influencing the success of adult education endeavors in the state. Business leaders can help develop a sustainable and skilled workforce by encouraging and supporting adult education by doing the following.
• Learn more about this issue by visiting www.EducateandElevate.org/Maryland, which has fact sheets for each Maryland county, or MAACCE’s site at www.MAACCEmd.org for more information.
• Explore being a sponsor for a workplace education program and receiving federal or state tax credits at www.dllr.state.md.us/employment/mbw.shtml. (An added benefit is increased employee retention.)
• Encourage congressional representatives and state representatives to support investing in Maryland adult education. Combined state and federal funding provides about $755 per adult student in Maryland. In contrast, Maryland spends about $14,000 per public school student from kindergarten to grade 12.
• Get to know local programs and support them with volunteer time or monetary support. The National Literacy Directory, www.nationalliteracydirectory.org, has a searchable database to find local programs.
Adult education programs in Maryland benefit local communities and businesses. Investing in Maryland adult education strengthens businesses with a more equipped workforce and a strong economy.
Cynthia Macleay Campbell, Ed.D., is principal consultant/owner of Gold Apple Services LLC and advocacy chair for the Maryland Association for Adult, Community and Continuing Education.