When Can You Drop Out of School in Missouri?

By E.A. Gjelten, Author and Editor
Missouri’s legal dropout age is 17, but younger students may also leave school under certain circumstances.

Missouri, like every other state, has a “compulsory education” law that requires school-age children to attend classes full time until they graduate from high school—unless they qualify for one of the exceptions. Read on to learn about those exceptions and the requirements for getting a high school equivalency diploma in Missouri.

Requirements for Dropping Out Legally

Missouri law requires students who aren’t mentally or physically incapacitated to attend public or private school (or an eligible home school) until they are 17 years old or have successfully completed 16 credits towards high school graduation.

Students who are 15 or 16 don’t have to attend school full time if they meet certain requirements. They must have a legal job, have received permission from school officials, and have told their parents. If the district offers part-time school, however, the working students may have to attend at least four hours a week of daytime classes. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 167.031, 167.051 (2019).)

Costs of Dropping Out

Aside from the long-term financial costs of dropping out of school, students who simply stop going to school before they’re legally eligible to drop out could face more immediate consequences for truancy. Missouri law generally focuses on going after their parents for educational neglect. But when that happens, the youth might potentially end up under the juvenile court’s jurisdiction. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 210.115, 211.031 (2019).)

High School Equivalency Tests

Dropouts in Missouri may receive a high school equivalency certificate if they pass the HiSET test. In order to take the test, you must be:

  • at least 16 years old
  • a Missouri resident, and
  • not currently attending high school (unless you’re in a special program for at-risk youth).

If you’re younger than 17, however, you must also provide:

  • transcripts showing that you completed 16 credit units toward high school graduation, and
  • written permission to take the test from the superintendent or principal of your last school.

Homeschooled 16-year-olds must provide special documentation to meet the HiSET eligibility requirements.

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