Savings in education: Change the Maximum Enrollment Age

In Arizona, and in my home state of Michigan, the education sector is a huge target for budget cuts. As a high school teacher in Arizona, I pay attention to these debates and try to keep up with what each side is saying. One thing that I haven’t seen brought up is saving money by lowering the maximum age to enroll in school.

In Arizona, a student can enroll in school until their 22nd birthday. This mean that at my charter high school, we have 22 year old students enrolled; they were not yet 22 when they started the school year.

In Michigan, the limit is 26.

My question is, and has been for years, why not lower the age to 19? I believe everyone is entitled to a free, public education, but I also believe they should be able to get that by the time they are 19 years old.

In Michigan, most of the older students are severely multiply disabled. My mother worked for 15 years as a paraprofessional in a public school for severely disabled students. The school, from my observation, her observations, and the observations of her coworkers, was more of an adult day care than anything. There is very little educating actually happening with many of the students and many are in a persistent vegetative state.

Here in Arizona, all of our older students are people who have dropped out at some point or been incarcerated at some point. To them I say: go enroll in a GED program. You had your chance at a free education, and you gave it up. Taxpayers can save a bundle of money by no longer subsidizing your mistakes.

What would be the results of lowering the limit to 19? Am I being short-sighted, or is this a reasonable point to raise?

This might decrease education costs, but it’s probably just going to increase costs elsewhere. If someone hasn’t gotten an education by age 22, they probably don’t consider it a very high priority, and might well decide not to do so at all, if they have to pay for it. Such a person is probably already a drain on society in various ways, and getting educated will probably make them less of a drain, or even a contributor.

Couldn’t we say the same thing at 19? For the state most relevant to me (AZ), we spend at least $6,000 per student, per year (Cite). That link is from 2008, so the number is probably a little higher today; I’m home now, but I’ll get an exact number tomorrow at work.

If even half of a percent of the state’s 75,359 high school students (I subtracted the categories of “juvenile facility”, “accommodation”, and “career/vocational”) were over 18, that would turn into a cost of $2.25 million. In a state facing huge deficits, I don’t think that’s insignificant.

Sorry, but a well-educated populace is a less likely to commit crimes and other stupid things populace. In fact, I wish a college education (perhaps the Associate’s level?) was free of charge for citizens; even though we all would have to chip in a bit more, the social benefit would be tremendous. Do we want people from other nations to be jealous of those who live here, or glad they are lucky enough to live elsewhere?

In Arizona, the budget shortfall for this year is $3 billion. The amount of money saved would not even make a dent, and (in all likelihood), would end up being used elsewhere. More importantly, reducing the number of students does not automatically reduce educational costs by any fixed amount per individual.

It’s not only profoundly handicapped kids who are entitled to special ed.
It also applies to less affected MR kids, as well as deaf,blind, autistic etc. many of those kids need to catch up b/c they got a crappy start through EI or fell through the cracks.
I do think that a good idea might be to have those profoundly handicapped kids transfered to private pediatric nursing homes. Profoundly handicapped kids do suck up a lot of resources. For example they need a LOT of very specialized equipment, and one on one nursing care.
It’s hard to believe that many of those students are in PVS. Overall, PVS level functioning is rare even with profound mental retardation.