As summer starts coming to an end, plenty of young Utahns will need to make a decision that's bound to affect the rest of their lives.

The decision: Whether to go back to school and complete their formal education - or drop out in order to keep the new jobs that some managed to find during the summer.For some, the temptation to forget about school will be particularly strong. That goes for those who have been getting poor grades and don't particularly like school. It also goes for some of those who like the feeling of independence that goes with having a job and a salary, even if the job pays only the minimum wage.

Those who feel inclined to leave school before graduation need to be introduced to a few economic facts of life. One of them is that, as a rule, the more education a person has, the more he or she gets paid. Another important consideration is spelled out in the latest issue of the Monthly Labor Review, published by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Students who drop out of high school, the department reports, are far more likely to be unemployed later - often for long periods of time - than those who graduate. In fact, many dropouts don't even try to get a job. Of those who do try, one in four are unemployed.

If you think that one in four aren't bad odds, take a close look at them. In applying for jobs, the dropouts are competing against high school and college graduates. Guess who gets the better paying and longer lasting jobs - the dropouts or the graduates? You guessed it.

By no means can a diploma be considered a solution to all problems. But the fact remains that staying in the classroom eventually pays off in dollars and cents as well as in the ability to get more enjoyment out of life. Keep that in mind when the school bell starts ringing this fall.