Some scary facts: One in four U.S. public school students drops out of high school before they graduate, and 30 percent of teen girls that have dropped out say pregnancy or parenthood is the main reason. Only 40 percent who have babies before age 18 finish high school, and less than two percent finish college by age 30.
The “Teen Mom” cast members are perfect examples of how difficult it is to maintain studies and raise a child at the same time. Amber dropped out of high school when she found out she was pregnant, and three years later, she still doesn’t have her GED. She says she deeply regrets dropping out. Maci graduated from high school but has now put her dream of earning a Bachelor’s degree on hold indefinitely. Recently, she decided to pursue a two-year degree, as it’s a much more achievable goal for the time being. Farrah‘s educational path moved her thousands of miles away from her family, and she’s now facing the realization that she needs her parents’ help with Sophia in order to concentrate on her studies. Even Catelynn and Tyler, two teens who chose adoption for their daughter, know they wouldn’t have been able to work toward college degrees, let alone graduate high school, had they chosen to raise Carly on their own.
The educational challenges created by teen pregnancy don’t just affect the parents. While early parenthood makes it more difficult for them to reach career and life goals, the children of teen parents are also at a disadvantage. Children born to teen mothers often begin kindergarten with lower math and reading scores, as well as lower language, communication and social skills. Then there’s the money. The economic value of an education is important to most people, but especially to teen parents. Raising a child isn’t cheap and jobs that don’t require a college degree usually don’t pay as well as those that do. Over the course of a lifetime, a college graduate will earn, on average, $1 million more than a high school dropout.
+ For more information on high school dropout rates and teen pregnancy, check out this report, and for more about the educational rights of young parents (did you know that it’s against the law for a public school to deny access to education based on pregnancy or parenthood?), go to the National Women’s Law Center.
–Written by Lauren Mann of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
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Photo: Jamel Toppin