The Five Most Interesting Things I Learned at Grad Nation Summit

By Missy Shields, buildOn Vice President of US Programs

Earlier this week, I attended the Grad Nation Summit in Washington D.C., a conference focused on solving America’s drop-out crisis, led by Colin Powell (American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army) and his wife Alma Powell. It was a tremendous opportunity to learn alongside policy makers, teachers, students, government officials, and other nonprofit leaders, while sharing how we are each doing our part to keep kids in school.

Here at buildOn, we know that students who have a relationship with at least one caring adult in their school stay in school. We also know that the social and emotional development of a student is just as important as academic readiness to get a student to graduation day, and then on to college. These are just two of the many things we provide through our Afterschool Service Program to under-resourced schools across the United States, and their importance was reinforced time and time again at the summit.

There were some new facts I found interesting, especially pertaining to the drop-out crisis and the U.S. Economy. Here are the top five things I learned at the summit:

  1. In the U.S., one in five children live in poverty. Only 50% of low-income youth graduate from high school, compared to 75% nationwide.
  2. There are 57% more homeless youth in the U.S. school system than there were 10 years ago.
  3. Education is the best investment we can make in our future, yet federal funding for education has decreased by 6% over the past five years. (Excluding inflation and per capita growth.)
  4. Only 8% of the Federal Budget supports programs and initiatives for children.
  5. If we can increase the graduation rate to 90% nationwide, we would see a $6.8 billion increase in GDP in the US.

Educational advocates often frame the drop-out crisis as a moral issue, and clearly it is. But, ensuring that every American student receives a quality education is also an economic issue that affects us all.