The budget impasse has caused adult education organizations to suspend their programming, lay off staff, and turn thousands of adult learners away. Adult education is a revenue-building tool; without it, our economy will suffer. Stronger, safer, and healthier communities depend on educated adults. Finally, our next generation needs educated parents so they can be prepared for school and a self-sustaining career.

In Cook County, low literacy levels among adults translate into greater costs for society and government across a range of areas. These are the estimated annual public costs associated with low literacy in:

  • Public Benefits – $5,017,631,771: Public benefit costs for individuals with only a high school diploma or no diploma are 14% and 45% higher, respectively, than for individuals with some post-secondary education.
  • Healthcare – $3,085,714,286: Individuals with low literacy have healthcare costs four times higher than those with proficient literacy skills.
  • Cook County Corrections – $146,836,600: These are the taxpayer costs due to recidivism among the 23,300 individuals who return from prison to Cook County each year. Improved literacy has been shown to be directly correlated to lower rates of recidivism.

The benefits for adult education are clear:

  • In 2014, across Illinois, adult education programs helped nearly 90,000 students improve their literacy skills, complete their high school education with either a diploma or a GED®, or improve their English language skills.
  • By 2020, over 67% of jobs in Illinois will require some postsecondary education or training – yet 3 million adults lack education beyond high school. Adult education is a workforce development solution. Without adult education providers, who will address this need?
  • For every dollar spent on adult education, the state is paid back $2.50. Adult education saves the state millions of dollars by reducing the need for state-subsidized programs such as those for public aid, housing, unemployment, food stamps, and Medicaid programs, as well as prison costs.

Sources: Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition, Illinois Community College Board, Women Employed and the Illinois Adult and Continuing Educators Association (IACEA).

To download a copy of this fact sheet, click HERE.