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The Diploma Milestone

When you were a kid, it seemed like every grade from kindergarten to the 6th grade was a new milestone worth celebrating. Even in grade school, every grade you completed was a new little milestone worth taking the time to acknowledge. However, once you reached high school, the milestone of graduating high school was the only thing that mattered and the only thing that would be truly celebrated. Which might make you think…

How common is it for people to reach the high school graduate milestone?

Well, back in 1960, only 39.5% of the US population finished high school and earned a diploma. As time moved along, the focus and value of earning a diploma grew. There are more second-chance recovery programs than ever, so the percentage of high school graduates per year has dramatically increased. By the year 2000, 84.2% of the US population completed high school, and 22 years later in 2022, the percentage of graduates is at its all-time high with 90.5% of the US population earning their high school diploma.

With such a high percentage of high school graduates, why are we still seeing high school dropouts and people without a diploma?

Well, it depends on what state you live in. Some states have a higher percentage of graduates than others. As of this year (2024), Montana has the highest percentage of students finishing high school and earning their diploma, while California, believe it or not, has the lowest percent of students finishing high school at 83.9%. The population of California is much bigger than Montana, so it is not uncommon to see more people without a diploma. For example, Florida stands at the 17th lowest state in the country for students finishing high school with the average percentage being 88.5%. This means that 33 US states have a graduation rate above 88.5%. These other states might not be as populated as the states with lower graduation rates.

With high school graduation rates increasing, with 90% of the US population earning a diploma, should the high school diploma still be a milestone worth celebrating?

YES! Here’s why…

As of 2023 in the US, the high school diploma is still the highest level of education that most people will achieve in their lifetime. The percentage of adults who earned some kind of degree is still only 44.4%. This number is increasing, but these numbers are not expected to climb over 60% within the next decade.

Why are people stopping their educational milestones at earning a high school diploma?

In short, the cost of earning a degree vs the worth of the degree. The average cost of in-state college tuition is at its all-time high at about $12,000, so reaching the next educational milestone of earning a degree can be financially challenging. When in 2004, the average cost of in-state tuition was about $4,600 respectively. So, it should come as no surprise that tuition and fees at private National Universities have increased about 40%, out-of-state tuition and fees at public National Universities have risen about 38%, and in-state tuition and fees at public National Universities have grown about 56%. This means that the cost of getting just a 2-year degree in anything has become more expensive than most people can afford, and for a good percentage of people, more expensive than the degree is actually worth. Especially, when more people would rather complete a trade school or earn a certification in something for a fraction of the cost and earn the same money or even more money than the average person with a 2-year degree.

What about reaching the milestone of earning a 4-year degree, is it still worth it?

This answer depends on what you plan to do with the degree. The economy has not been kind to college graduates in the last few years. People with 4-year degrees are having a hard time finding and keeping a job that makes getting that degree worth it. More employers than less would rather hire a person that has experience but only a diploma vs a person with a 4-year degree that has little to no experience. Do not get what I am saying wrong, there are still jobs that require a degree to even get your foot in the door, like being a registered nurse or veterinarian. So, to answer the question if getting a 4-year degree is still worth it, you would need to figure out what you plan on doing once you actually have it. Keep in mind, that is not uncommon these days to see people with only a high school diploma earning a better salary than college graduates.

Which brings us back to why earning a high school diploma is still a milestone worth celebrating.

A high school diploma is the foundation of making anything you want to do as a career possible. You need it to get a decent job, to go to a trade school, to go to college, and to even join the military.

So, if you’re working on earning your high school diploma or have already earned one, do not take the diploma lightly. The diploma is an education milestone worth the pursuit and worth celebrating for generations to come.

This article was written by Brittney Lucas

Manager of Student Services at EIPCS


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Apr 11
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great read!

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