$250M investment aims to boost graduation with ed tech

A $250 million initiative will use technology and social media to strengthen U.S. graduation rates.

A new $250 million campaign from AT&T seeks to help more students graduate from high school ready for college or a career through a “socially innovative” approach that will engage education stakeholders as they use educational technology to devise new solutions to challenging social problems.

The AT&T Aspire program has put more than $100 million into educational initiatives since 2008, and the new $250 million investment will focus on using technology to connect with students in new and more effective ways, including interactive gaming, web-based content, and social media.

The Aspire program intends to help every student graduate from high school “equipped with the knowledge and skills to strengthen the nation’s workforce,” said AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson.

Lacking a high school degree is a serious issue in the United States, where one in four students—more than 1 million each year—drops out, according to a March 19 report by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Education experts say the lack of a high school degree significantly worsens job prospects in a rapidly changing, increasingly sophisticated job market.

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And, if dropouts find jobs, they typically earn less. On average, a high school dropout earns 25 percent less during the course of his or her lifetime compared with a high school graduate and 57 percent less than a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

Part of the new $250 million investment will allow the Aspire program to fund smaller, proven programs in need of additional investments so they can expand on a larger scale, said Beth Shiroishi, vice president of sustainability and philanthropy for AT&T and president of the AT&T Foundation.

The expanded initiative will build support for high school graduation in multiple ways.

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