Should States Raise the Age of Mandatory Attendance?

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WNYC Brian Lehrer Show on proposed mandate to keep students in school until age 18

Cecilia Rouse, professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University, said President Obama's call to legally require students to stay in school until they graduate or turn 18 is just one component of his education platform.

Speaking on The Brian Lehrer Show, Professor Rouse said the proposal builds on states' current efforts, with many already having raised the age in compulsory schooling laws in the last decade, and 21 of them setting the minimum age at 18. She said evidence shows that age increases compel more students to stay in school longer and lead to higher salaries as adults.

She also wrote an op-ed article on this topic last week.

The online discussion generated strong opinions for and against the president's proposal. Opponents raised concerns about enforcement and others said high schools should offer more vocational training to perhaps catch those students at risk of dropping out.

One listener posted this comment: "By the time she was 16, my sister had all but stopped going to any classes. My parents told her if she wasn't going to go to school, she had to drop out and get a job to help support herself. After several years of dead-end jobs (factory work, waitressing), she wised up and got her GED and eventually her bachelor's degree. In her case, dropping out and realizing what it would mean for the rest of her life was the best thing that could have happened to her."

Another listener said she thought the mandate was "a great idea. It is really sad that many of the kids who drop out of school come from broken families, where the parents don't care to motivate their kids to complete high school. I know people say it is not the government's duty to be the parent, but what are these kids supposed to do when they don't really know any better and they have no role models at home to value education?"

Tell us what you think about the president's call to keep students in school until age 18.