Until What Age is School Attendance Compulsory?

Across the nation, there are policies in place that dictate the ages during which children must attend school. These policies, referred to as compulsory education age requirements, are put in place to make sure all children receive an education. Compulsory attendance ages vary by state, but all outline a lower age limit at which children are required to be enrolled in school and an upper age limit at which attendance is no longer compulsory. This upper age limit usually occurs in the last few years of high school, and after they reach this age students are allowed to drop out of school.

The ages for this upper limit are different in every state, but all fall within the range of 16 to 18 years old. Only about half the states in the US require attendance until the age of 18. But as policymakers review and change their statutes, this number continues to rise. Many states push for this higher age limit to try to guarantee that their students receive enough learning to make their way in a society that increasingly requires higher levels of education. By requiring students to attend school until they are 18, states see a dramatically reduced rate of dropouts, ensuring their students are receiving as much education as they can.

States with an upper compulsory attendance age limit of 16 include Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. States with a limit of 17 are Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and West Virginia. Those whose upper age limit is 18 include Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

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