NBC News’ Education Nation Challenge

Visualize the Economics of Higher Graduation Rates

Education Nation Challenge graphic

Graduating from high school means better job prospects and higher earning potential for individuals, but what does it mean for the community or country as a whole? In partnership with NBC News’ Education Nation, and using data from the Alliance for Excellent Education, Visualizing.org challenges you to visualize the projected benefits and economic ripple effects that would result from improving America’s graduation rates. Add your voice to the debate by participating: the 2011 Education Nation Summit will help bring your work to elected officials, educators, and business leaders.

The Alliance for Excellent Education has produced a new data set that projects the future economic benefits resulting from reducing the dropout rate now. Including indicators such as additional spending, tax revenue, home sales, and more, this data offers a detailed look at the long term effects of increased graduation in hundreds of communities across the US. We challenge you to visualize these effects so that policymakers and the public can see the possible outcomes of improving America’s schools. How could increased graduation impact local economies? Why should all individuals, even those without students in the education system, care about the dropout crisis?

Special Format: Infographic Design

Projects should be high-resolution infographics, ready for printing on a large scale (poster size). Please upload your project as a PNG, JPEG, or PDF; we will contact the winner to get the print-ready file. Printing specs: 48″ X 60″ at 300 dpi (14400 x 18000 pixels).

The Data

Primary data set: Education and the Economy (Alliance for Excellent Education)
Behind the data: Technical Notes (PDF)

The economic projections look at 8 indicators across 4 scenarios, in which the number of students dropping out from a single high school class are reduced by 25%, 50%, 75%, and an idealistic 100%. Each scenario is broken down by geographic area (national, state, or metropolitan statistical area) and ethnic category. Importantly, this data projects the gross benefit to the local economies, not the net benefit (which would factor in the costs necessary to achieve higher graduation rates).

Source: The Alliance for Excellent Education—a policy and advocacy organization focused on promoting high school transformation to make it possible for every child to graduate prepared for postsecondary learning and success in life—has produced this data in partnership with State Farm®. The projections come from a sophisticated input-output model, developed by Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc. Historical data for graduation rates is provided by Editorial Projects in Education’s Research Center, a division of the nonprofit organization that publishes Education Week.

Additional Data (optional):


Representatives from Alliance for Excellent Education, NBC News’ Education Nation, Editorial Projects in Education’s Research Center, and Visualizing.org.


  • The winning design will be showcased during the Education Nation Summit, putting it in front of policymakers, educators, and business leaders. This year’s Summit focuses on state-wide policy, with governors, members of congress, and other elected officials in attendance.
  • The winner and their work will also be featured on NBC News’ EducationNation.com, and be invited to visit NBC News in New York.
  • The winner will receive a high-quality, poster-size print of their project.
  • The winner will also receive a $2000 prize courtesy of GE (a part owner of NBCUniversal).
  • An Honorary Mention winner will receive a $500 prize courtesy of GE (a part owner of NBCUniversal).


Submission Deadline: Monday, September 12, 2011 11:59 PM EST
Winner Announced: Sunday, September 25, 2011


The winning visualization: Education and the Economy by Jonathan Schwabish and Courtney Griffith.

Read the recap.

NOTE: Challenge participants, including the winner, are not permitted to display the NBC News logo on their own website.

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