LA CROSSE, Wis. - The rate of high school students around the country who are graduating within four years is at the highest it's been since 1969.
That's according to a new study from the U.S. Education Department.
But how much is that high school diploma really worth these days?
In the La Crosse School District, the most recent numbers show nearly 90 percent of high school students graduate in the four-year four year time frame.
That number is about three percent higher than the state rate.
But both educators and job experts say on time or not, receiving a high school diploma is still the foundation for making a decent living.
Graduation day is still months away, but Central High School senior Pa Houa Moua already has big plans after she walks across the stage -- college.18272160
"Nowadays, job wise, it's really hard to find a job that just takes a high school degree ,and obviously higher education is so important," said Moua.
It's the motivation for finding a job as well as proper education that helps the district maintain a nearly 95 percent overall graduation rate, according to Central High School Principal Jeff Fleig.
"We're constantly evaluating when students are not learning,"said Fleig. "(We have) early intervening services in their freshman and sophomore year to make sure that we really get to those students that might be at-risk."
Fleig said students are realizing a high school diploma is their ticket into further education or getting a job.
Beth Sullivan of Workforce Development said down the road, a high school diploma will be considered as more and more of just a stepping stone to getting hired.
"It's hard to get a job without a high school diploma, but what we're finding is that 60 percent of the jobs that will be created by the end of decade will need post-high school-education."
The majority of jobs that continue to dominate in western Wisconsin center around government and education, health care and manufacturing. Sullivan said all of them require further schooling or training.
Moua hopes to one day become a community health educator.
While the competitive job market is plenty of motivation for her to keep studying, becoming a first-generation college student gives her an even bigger boost.
"My parents tell me every day to go to college, do well in school because of their situation that they couldn't go to college, and take that advantage."
Moua is actually one of five children in her family and will be the third among her siblings to go to college.
Educators in the area also attribute the high graduation rates to more accountability in education.
They say now more than ever, there are more tests and things like the state-issued school report cards that hold schools responsible for student success.
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