A new effort to increase on-time high school graduation rates will be discussed Friday by school officials and community members.
The State of the Schools Breakfast, sponsored by the school boards of Beaufort and Jasper counties, will outline a recent partnership between the Beaufort County School District and Grad Nation, a national campaign to increase on-time graduation rates to 90 percent by 2020.
Betty Molina Morgan, Grad Nation's executive director, will speak at the event. The former national superintendent of the year said her remarks will focus on drumming up community support and awareness to reduce the number of dropouts.
"It's not just about academics," she said. "It's social, emotional and psychological reasons (that cause students to drop out). These kids need a lot of support."
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Nationwide, she said, about 75 percent of students graduate from high school in four years.
In Beaufort County, about 70 percent finished on time, according to the district's 2011 state report card.
In Jasper County, the number was about 73 percent.
High dropout rates hurt local economies, Morgan said.
"You have a situation of lost taxes and lost revenue because people are not gainfully employed," she said. "Someone who drops out has great difficulty in getting appropriate employment."
Beaufort County superintendent Valerie Truesdale said the event fits into the school district's effort to push students to be prepared for college and careers. The district aims to raise awareness of college options in several simple ways, such as encouraging teachers to discuss their alma maters with students, she said.