NEW YORK - AT&T Inc. will donate $100 million over four years to programs aimed at boosting high-school graduation rates, Chief Executive Randall Stephenson is to announce Thursday.
"Far too many students are dropping out of high school in this country — one every 26 seconds — creating a serious threat to our nation's global economic leadership," Stephenson said in a statement ahead of a speech at the Economic Club of Chicago on Thursday.
AT&T will devote the money to schools and nonprofit organizations and fund research and community "dropout prevention summits" run by America's Promise Alliance, a coalition of nonprofits and corporations that was founded by Colin Powell.
AT&T will also give 100,000 students the opportunity to "shadow" AT&T employees on the job, "to give them a firsthand look at the skills they will need to succeed," the company said. The cost of the 400,000 AT&T employee hours to be devoted to this program are not included in the $100 million pledge.
The job shadowing program will be administered by Junior Achievement, a member of the National Job Shadow Coalition.
Stephenson cited a recent study by Editorial Projects in Education, a Bethesda, Md., nonprofit organization, that found that nearly one-third of U.S. high school students drop out before graduating.
The study has been criticized as exaggerating the problem. The Department of Education's study of census data said 9 percent of 16- to 24-year olds were not in school and lacked a high-school diploma in 2005. That number is down from 15 percent in 1972.