Michigan Education Association

Aimless students more likely to drop out, lack employment, survey confirms

EAST LANSING, Mich., May 29, 2008 – One out of five young adults lack job or career goals, leading to increased dropout and jobless rates, according to a new survey.

Twenty-five percent of young adults say they didn’t get the direction they were seeking while in high school to achieve job or career goals, according to a poll of 500 Michigan residents conducted by the Lansing-based firm EPIC-MRA. Those lacking job or career goals are less likely to graduate on time and more likely to believe school isn’t relevant to their lives, the survey found.

“This confirms what educators and parents know – too many young adults are rudderless and don’t know what to do in the future,” said MEA President Iris K. Salters. “They’re going through life without direction. And when they lack clear goals and focus, they’re more likely to struggle.”

The survey shows that students with role models, career guidance and other vital supports are more likely to graduate and either find a job and or go on to other post secondary education. And yet, schools have cut the number of guidance counselors and often lack formal mentoring programs to help students. In many districts, for example, there is just one counselor to work with 500 students.

MEA commissioned the poll as part of an initiative to end the dropout crisis.

“We want to learn as much as we can about why students drop out of high school so we can work with community stakeholders to find ways to help them come back,” Salters said. “Finding solutions to end this crisis needs to be a top priority.”

Other key findings include:

  • Eleven percent of high school juniors or seniors plan to end their education with high school, will not graduate on time or will dropout. The number nearly doubles (21 percent) for those lacking job or career goals.

  • While 4 percent of those polled haven’t completed high school, 10 percent of those who lacked guidance in high school haven’t graduated.

  • While 25 percent of all respondents said they didn’t receive job or career direction in high school, 55 percent of dropouts said they lacked such help.

  • Nearly 30 percent of all respondents said they didn’t have a role model in high school, but more dropouts and more individuals without job and career goals said they didn’t have role models (73 percent and 54 percent, respectively).

  • Twenty-four percent of those with goals said they were unemployed compared to 45 percent of those who said they have no job or career goals.

  • Survey participants identified parents, teachers or counselors and siblings as the most influential people in their lives.

  • Two percent of those polled said they had actually dropped out of school; 6 percent said they had considered dropping out.

The telephone survey was conducted May 12-21 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Finding ways to fix Michigan’s dropout crisis is the focus of public hearings being held around the state. For more information about MEA efforts to end the dropout crisis and a schedule of upcoming hearings, visit www.mea.org/dropouts.

For a copy of the survey, contact MEA Communications at 800-292-1934.

CONTACT: Ed Sarpolus, Director of Government Affairs, 517-927-9776


Updated: February 17, 2009 4:35 PM