Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson believes that one of the cornerstones of crime prevention begins with increasing high school graduation rates and reducing truancy throughout Muskegon County. On January 1, 2013, the Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office, in partnership with the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District, the Department of Human Services, Mediation and Restorative Services, and the Social Justice Commission implemented the Operation Graduation initiative. 

The program is a coordinated effort designed to identify truant students as quickly as possible and utilize community resources to combat the problem. For a more detailed description of the program, click here.

The Hard Facts Regarding Truancy

  • Individuals who fail to complete high school have higher death rates, poor mental health and increased risk of personal injury than individuals who complete a high school degree. (Bridgeland et al. 2006).
  • A high school graduate lives 9.2 years longer than a high school dropout. (Wong et al. 2002).
  • Students with low academic achievement, a risk factor for dropout, are twice as likely to become a parent by their senior year of high school, compared to students with high academic achievement. (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2003b).
  • High school dropouts tend to marry early and divorce frequently. (Jones and Lovrich, 2011).
  • Approximately 75% of state inmates, 59% of federal inmates and 69% of local jail inmates are high school dropouts. (Harlow, 2003).
  • The average annual cost to educate a student is $9644, compared with $22,600 to house an inmate. (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2008).
  • The average annual income for a high school dropout is $19,540, compared to $27,380 for a high school graduate. (Snyder and Dillow, 2011).
  • Over the course of his or her lifetime, a high school dropout earns, on average, about $260,000 less than a high school graduate. (Rouse, 2005).
  • Over the course of a lifetime, high school dropouts earn almost $1 million less than college graduates. (Doland, 2001).
  • Increasing high school dropouts' education to the level of a high school degree would save:
    • $17 billion per year in Medicaid and expenditures
    • $1.5 billion to $3.5 billion in TANF costs per year
    • $353 million per year in food stamp costs
    • $18 million per year in housing assistance. (Garfinkel, 2005; Alliance for Excellent Education, 2006).
  • An increase in the graduation rate for boys of just 5% could save $4.9 billion annually in crime-related costs. (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2006).
  • The United States could save more than $17 billion in Medicaid and expenditures for health care for the uninsured by graduating all students. (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2006).
  • In addition, research has shown that truancy is related to delinquency, substance use and abuse, high school dropout, suicidal thoughts and attempts, and early sexual intercourse. (Chang and Romero 2008; Henry and Huizinga 2005, as reported in Heilbrunn 2007; Henry and Huizinga 2007; Kelley et al. 1997; Loeber and Farrington 2000; Seeley 2008a). For instance, recent research shows that truancy is not only the most significant risk factor for predicting first-time marijuana use, but it also predicts 97% of first-time drug use. (Seeley 2008a). These early patterns have long-term costs for both the individual and society at large. According to the 2000 census, while 83% of college graduates and 71% of high school graduates were employed, high school dropouts had an employment rate of only 52%. (Walker 2007). In addition, decades of research have also identified a link between truancy and later problems in marriage, in jobs, and with violence, adult criminality, and incarceration. (Dryfoos 1990; Catalano et al. 1998; Robins and Ratcliff 1978; Snyder and Sickmund 1995).
  • Truancy reduction can also save public monies. Dropouts are poorly prepared to enter the workforce and require greater expenditures for social services and criminal justice processes than do graduates. (Heilbrunn 2007). Unemployment rates for dropouts are generally almost 20% higher than for high school graduates. Employed male dropouts earn about 75% of what graduates earn while females only 60%. (Heilbrunn 2003). The RAND Corporation estimated that each high school dropout costs society between $188,086 and $297,188. (Vernez, Krop, and Rydell 2000). Truancy's high societal costs are evident in studies of adults who were frequent truants as adolescents. According to Baker, Sigmon, and Nugent (2001), such adults are more likely than others to have poor physical and mental health, work in low paying jobs, live in poverty, utilize the welfare system extensively, have children with behavioral problems, and be incarcerated.