greg_mathis_web.jpgOftentimes, when we think of a student who drops out of college, we think of how that will affect them.

We become concerned about the limited career options and decreased earning potential they’ll face without a college degree.

Rarely do we think of the cost to the larger society. But we should: College dropouts cost taxpayers billions in both the short and long term. We owe it to them –and ourselves– to ensure they complete their education.

A new report shows that states allocated more than $6 billion to four-year colleges and universities over a five-year period to pay for the education of students who did not return for their second year. The study also shows that the federal government and states together spent almost $3 billion on grants for students who didn't start their sophomore year.

In a depressed economy, it’s particularly disturbing to learn that money is essentially being wasted to pay for education that is not being received. However, the answer is not, as many critics suggest, to discourage students who may not be ready for college from attending.

Rather, schools and the government must work together to figure out how we can support students throughout their college careers and ensure they graduate.

Graduating from college is a great personal achievement. Doing so can dramatically change the graduate’s quality of life. College graduates earn almost $1 million more over the course of their career than those with a high school diploma. But it’s not just the graduates who win.

The additional money they earn is then put back into the economy. Additionally, a more educated workforce helps lift the American economy since the workers companies have to choose from will be more qualified. Making sure our young people finish college isn’t important to just their personal success; it’s key to our continued growth as a society.

Most parents – and society at large – expect young adults attending college to have the skills to handle all that is required of them. That isn’t always the case. From dealing with increased financial pressures that come with paying for school to juggling a more rigorous course load to new social pressures, college is a different world and, unfortunately, many students crack under the pressure.

Schools must work to increase their student service programs to provide financial, academic and psychological counseling to students at every step of their academic career. College readiness is not always determined by academics; we must take the necessary steps to ensure our kids are able to handle all of the new pressures and responsibilities of college.

Greg Mathis – Judge Mathis of television fame — is a national figure known for his advocacy campaigns for equal justice.  His inspirational life story of a street youth who rose from jail to judge has provided hope to millions who watch him on the award-winning television court show Judge Mathis each day.