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Dwindling Number of Potential College Students Forecasted for Many States

March 31, 2008

The tremendous growth in the number of high school students and graduates experienced in the 1990s is expected to end this year, according to a new report from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). According to Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates by State and Race/Ethnicity 1992-2022, nationally, the number of public high school graduates and potential college applicants is expected to gradually decline between 2007-08 and 2013-14.

However, each state, according to the report, will face a very different demographic future. States, primarily concentrated in the South and West, will continue to experience increases in high school graduates while many states in the Northeast and Midwest will face significant declines. For example, Kansas, Louisiana (due to the impact of Hurricane Katrina), Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming are projected to experience a loss of 10 percent in high school graduates while Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Texas, and Utah are forecasted to experience explosive growth with increases of more than 20 percent.

A shift in the racial/ethnic composition of high school populations is also projected to occur over the next decade. Minority populations are anticipated to increase rapidly, with Hispanics fueling much of the growth. In fact, many states are projected to see minority students becoming the majority of high school graduates. For example, between 2004-05 and 2014-15, the number of:

  • Hispanic high school graduates is projected to increase 54 percent;
  • Asian/Pacific Islander high school graduates is projected to increase 32 percent;
  • American Indian/Alaska Native graduates is projected to increase 7 percent;
  • Black, non-Hispanic high school graduates is projected to increase 3 percent; and
  • White, non-Hispanic students, is projected to decline 11 percent.

A state-by-state breakdown of projected overall increases/decreases and racial/ethnic composition is provided in the report to help guide policymakers and colleges and universities in preparing for the next generation of college students.

The full report can be downloaded for free on WICHE’s website.