Sometimes, we want something so badly we're willing to pay more than we usually would be inclined to pay. But sometimes, the price is just too high.

Utah wants to improve educational outcome for its students.To achieve that end, the State School Board has established some of the most stringent high school graduation requirements in the country.

But it appears the state may have to pay a price - an increase in the number of students who "can't cut it," to use the common vernacular.

Some educational leaders are predicting the number of dropouts will increase as more students fail to rise to the standard.

That may be too high a price to pay for an increase in excellence.

Certainly, Utah should set a standard for the majority of its students, and every effort should be made to help that majority to reach the specified achievement goals.

But to be willing to "scrap" those students who can't achieve the standard or who have no desire to follow the prescribed academic course is an expensive bit of shortsightedness.

Not every high school graduate will attend college. Not all of those who start college will finish.

There are plenty of places in the world for people who don't have four years of English and two or three of math to their credit.

Such people provide hundreds of essential services on which the rest of us rely.

Why not alternative tracks in public education that enjoy the same degree of acceptance as the college-bound academic track?

If it is evident as a child approaches high school age that he or she is already having trouble making the grade and beginning to show a distinct disinterest in school, it should be time to consider some alternatives.

Salvaging that student should be more important than achieving high compliance to the graduation requirements.

Education is failing in its prime purpose if it places more emphasis on the process than on individual end results.

Vocational/technical training and instruction in practical life skills that would prepare the student for a job upon graduation - even if it falls short of the prescribed credit formula - should be acceptable.

Employment is one objective of public education. Not the only one, to be sure, but an important one. A high school diploma is the key that opens the door to many jobs.

Maybe there should be more than one type of diploma offered for high school - academic and vocational, for instance.

The state is right in setting standards. Students should be required to meet some sort of requirement for excellence. But should it be the same for every student?

The dropout problem is extensive and real and no single answer will address all its facets.

But ignoring the issue is foolhardy. Dropouts cost not only in dollars but in social effects.

If too-stringent graduation requirements are contributing to the dropout rate, educators should be taking a second look at those requirements and how they are applied.