Upper Compulsory School Age

1/21/2014

States have been examining their compulsory school age limits as a dropout prevention strategy, in conjunction with polices that enforce attendance requirements and require students to be informed of the economic consequences and high school diploma options if they do drop out. 

The January 2011 recommendations of the NCSL Task Force on School Dropout Prevention and Recovery address compulsory school age. In the report, the task force recommends that states “Conduct policy audits, eliminate counterproductive policies and provide incentives for collaboration.”  The report discusses compulsory school age as follows:

“Evidence suggests that raising the maximum compulsory school age above 16 curtails dropout rates and produces other positive results. Until recently, most states permitted students to drop out of high school at age 16; now, 32 states have set their compulsory school age to 17 or 18. States can make maximum compulsory school attendance requirements more meaningful by revoking work permits and driving privileges of students who drop out before the state-set minimum school-leaving age. States also can require that students who withdraw from school before graduation receive information not only about the economic consequences of dropping out, but also how they can complete their high school diploma after they do so.”

Mandatory School Age in the States

As of August 2013, 16 states and the Virgin Islands have set the state compulsory school age at 16 years old;11 states at 17 years old; and 23 states and the District of Columbia, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico at 18 years old.

Mandatory School Age in the States

State

Mandatory School Age

Alabama

17

Alaska

16

Arizona

16

Arkansas

17

California

18

Colorado

17

Connecticut

18

Delaware

16

Florida

16

Georgia

16

Hawaii

18

Idaho

16

Illinois

17

Indiana

18

Iowa

16

Kansas

18

Kentucky

16 until 2017 | 18 thereafter

Louisiana

18

Maine

17

Maryland

16 until July 1, 2015 | 17 until July 1, 2017 | 18 thereafter

Massachusetts

16

Michigan

18

Minnesota

16

Mississippi

17

Missouri

17

Montana

16

Nebraska

18

Nevada

18

New Hampshire

18

New Jersey

16

New Mexico

18

New York

16

North Carolina

16

North Dakota

16

Ohio

18

Oklahoma

18

Oregon

18

Pennsylvania

17

Rhode Island

18

South Carolina

17

South Dakota

18

Tennessee

17

Texas

18

Utah

18

Vermont

16

Virginia

18

Washington

18

West Virginia

17

Wisconsin

18

Wyoming

16

Additonal Resources