Policy Documents

How Much Does Each Diploma Cost?

June 14, 2010

HARTFORD – The average Connecticut high school graduate cost taxpayers about $133,000 from kindergarten through senior year, according to new research by the Yankee Institute. For high school graduates in the city of Hartford, which has the state’s most expensive graduates, that figure climbed to just under $200,000 per graduate, the data shows.

Using data from the Connecticut Department of Education, the Yankee Institute has ranked every Connecticut public high school by the lifetime cost of education per graduate. The five most expensive and least expensive diplomas are:

Rank               School                         Cost per Graduate
111                HARTFORD SCHOOL DISTRICT $ 199,212
110               NEW HAVEN SCHOOL DISTRICT $ 190,529
109              NEW BRITAIN SCHOOL DISTRICT $ 181,503
108              GREENWICH SCHOOL DISTRICT $ 179,816
107             NEW LONDON SCHOOL DISTRICT $ 178,306
5                  COVENTRY SCHOOL DISTRICT $ 110,380
4                  NEW FAIRFIELD SCHOOL DISTRICT $ 110,309
3                 WOLCOTT SCHOOL DISTRICT $ 109,981
2                 TOLLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT $ 107,552
1                 WATERTOWN SCHOOL DISTRICT $ 106,303

The entire dataset is available here: Rankings | Graph | Data

The most efficient school districts – Watertown, Tolland, and Wolcott – generate nearly two diplomas for the same price it cost Hartford to generate just one. It costs nearly as much to graduate one student in Hartford as it does to purchase a home in the Hartford market ($225,900), based on pricing from the National Association of Realtors.

“People who invest $133,000 in something expect a high return on that investment. Are taxpayers getting good value for an investment of that size?” asks Fergus Cullen, Executive Director of the Yankee Institute, the free market think tank that examined the data.

“If some communities can educate a graduate for nearly half the cost of other communities, imagine how much value a parent with $133,000 for education could do for her child,” Cullen said. “School choice has the potential to get more students wearing a cap and gown without any additional cost.”

Methodology: To calculate the cost per graduate, the Yankee Institute took data from the Connecticut Department of Education for average annual expenditures per student going back 13 years, representing K-12. After adding up that data, Yankee then divided it by graduation rates to come up with the lifetime cost per graduate. The most current data available is for the 2007-2008 school year, and data is not adjusted for inflation, so the real cost of 2010 graduates is higher than we have calculated. Communities with high annual costs, more drop outs, and lower graduation rates end up with the more expensive graduates. Some regional school districts, districts with less than 13 years of data, charter schools, and other non-traditional schools were left out of the calculations to keep the data consistent for the greatest number of schools.