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AT&T announces quarter-billion-dollar expansion of education commitment

Aims to increase high school graduates, boost workplace readiness

WASHINGTON (April 12, 2012) — As access to skilled workers becomes increasingly vital to the U.S. economy, AT&T is launching a quarter-billion-dollar campaign to help more students graduate from high school ready for careers and college, and to ensure the country is better prepared to meet global competition.

AT&T Aspire, already among the most significant U.S. corporate educational initiatives with more than $100 million invested since 2008, will tackle high school success and college/career readiness for students at-risk of dropping out of high school through a much larger, “socially innovative” approach. Social innovation goes beyond traditional philanthropy – which typically involves only charitable giving – to also engage people and technology to bring different approaches, new solutions and added resources to challenging social problems, AT&T said in its press release.

The greatly expanded effort centers on a new, $250 million financial commitment planned over five years. AT&T Aspire will use technology to connect with students in new and more effective ways, such as with interactive gamification, Web-based content and social media. The company will also tap the innovation engine of the AT&T Foundry to look for fresh approaches to educational obstacles. AT&T Aspire also plans to capitalize on the power of personal connections in the form of mentoring, internships and other voluntary efforts that involve many of AT&T’s approximately 260,000 employees. The Aspire effort already has impacted more than one million U.S. high school students, helping them prepare for success in the workplace and college.

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, 2012, report by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Education experts believe that the lack of a high school degree significantly worsens job prospects in a rapidly changing, increasingly sophisticated job market.

And, if dropouts find jobs, they 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, according to the report.

The situation poses a serious risk to American competitiveness as corporations struggle to find talent, especially in the math and sciences fields, AT&T said in its press release. The dropout rate, along with inadequate training and education, is keeping many high-paying Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs from being filled. And the situation is expected to worsen as STEM jobs grow a projected 17 percent by 2018. Workers in these positions typically earn 26 percent more than those in non-STEM positions.

Although the problem is serious, there are signs of progress according to the report:

• The high school graduation rate increased by 3.5 percentage points nationally from 2001 to 2009.

• In 2001, the rate was 72.0 percent; by 2009, it had risen to 75.5 percent. From 2002 to 2009, six states experienced large gains in their graduation rates; 14 states made moderate gains; and four states made modest gains. (Note: 2002 was the first year that state data became available.)

• And the number of “dropout factory” high schools (a high school where 12th-grade enrollment is 60 percent or less than the 9th-grade enrollment three years previously) dropped from 2,007 to 1,550 from 2002 to 2010 – a 23 percent decrease.

AT&T and the AT&T Foundation have invested more than $100 million in Aspire since 2008 – and more than $923 million in education since 1984. AT&T and the AT&T Foundation’s total community giving amounted to $2.2 billion from 1984 to 2011.

To learn more, visit http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=2631.