Saturday, September 26, 2009

Why Ending Effective Educational Programs Makes Terrible Economic Sense

by Nicole Ouellette

Recently, a local school district has closed off a computer technology program open to high school students. Their reasons cited were low enrollment. My old boss Chris wrote an excellent letter about his experience with the program in the local paper. It got me thinking, beyond the impact of one individual student, how do these programs effect the world beyond the classroom?

Schools exist to make productive members of society. And when you look into the data, a lot of these technical programs end up being pretty effective. They increase graduation rates and beyond that, students who go through these programs earn more money, have lower unemployment, and lower rates of substance abuse.

So subjectively, these programs are fantastic. But what is their actual return on investment, beyond preventing bad things from happening to teenagers?

Let's take my old boss Chris, a former student in a technological program. Chris is the IT Manager of a company that employs 60 people. Let's say he makes $50,000 a year (I have no idea if this is the case but it's a nice round number to work with.)

Money Invested In Chris:
Computer, used over 4 years: $2000
Misc. tech equiptment in addition to computer: $2000
Additional supplies (books, etc.): $1000
Teacher, 4 years salary: $160,000 (assuming $40,000/year)
Computer Tech Support (additional instructor, part time, four years salary): $60,000 (assuming $15,000/year)
Administrative costs (part time, four years salary): $60,000
Total Cost: $285,000 , Cost per Year: $71,250 (After four years, investment is zero)

Money Returned From Chris:
Taxes to Chris' salary (assuming $50,000 salary): $12,500/year
Money spent by Chris of his salary (assuming 25% of his salary goes into savings, 25% to taxes): $25,000/year
Volunteer hours (including Rotary, assuming 2 hours/week at value of $25/hour): $2,600
Total Money Back Into Economy Each Year: $40,100
Years To Pay Off Education Costs (Breaking Even): 7.09 years

So the technical program has not only paid himself off but made a 'profit' in eight years. Also, I assumed that Chris was using resources (including his teacher) exclusively when in actuality, costs would be shared by several students. I also assumed in my calculations a relatively high salary for teachers and a relatively low salary for Chris. I am also not counting how much it costs to treat some of the problems that are created when people do not have access to educational opportunities.

To be fair, maybe not all of Chris' classmates are equally productive. That said, looking at the graph, after an additional 7 years, Chris has put enough resources back into the economy for two people.

The point is technical education programs, from a purely objective standpoint, contribute to our economy, in addition to improving the lives of individual students.

So if your school is considering cutting back programs to save costs, I encourage you to fight it, especially if you are out of the educational community. Because as you can see, the cost of putting a productive member into society is relatively little compared to what society will get back.

Nicole, formerly in education, runs her own technology-related business and writes her blog at

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Common Core National Standards First Draft

English/Language Arts Draft

Math Draft

NYT: Room for Debate: National Academic Standards: The First Test

Marion Brady: National Standards and Education Reform


Moving to Different Productivity Apps II

I spent the morning at Mountain Valley High School in the new RSU #10. MVHS has had a 1-to-1 program for several years now with both teachers and students having Microsoft Office as their main productivity suite. But looking at the cost of licensing for students, it was decided to go with only staff having MS Office. This, of course, leads to concerns about being able to read files with different programs.

My job was to offer some options and offer assistance in difficult cases. During a staff meeting I reviewed options on Moving to Different Productivity Apps.

OpenOffice is a great addition to MLTI machines and can be downloaded and added to the "MyApps" folder quite easily. Of course, NeoOffice, Pages, Numbers and Keynote will meet most needs.

Many were excited to find out that just about anything could be turned into a PDF on the Maine laptops. If all else fails, simply save as a PDF and annotate as needed in Preview.

I spent the morning answering additional questions from staff and students. I'm so fortunate to be able to work with yet another great Maine school.