Iowa State University

Iowa State University

Strategic Plan 2005-2010

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Report Brief

Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates by State, Income, and Race/Ethnicity


This report looks at historical and projected trends in elementary and secondary school enrollments to better understand what has happened and what is likely to happen with the high school graduating classes over the next several years. In addition to examining the graduating classes at the state, regional, and national level, the report probes two prominent characteristics of students that relate to their success in graduating from high school: family income and race/ethnicity.

Key Points from the Report

National and Regional Public and Nonpublic enrollments

  • Trends in elementary and secondary reenrollments indicate that a regional shirt has occurred in school-age populations, and this trend will continue. While the south remains the largest, the West has become the second largest region for enrollments, followed by the Midwest and Northeast.
  • Enrollment growth nationally slowed considerably, and annual increases declined in size after school year 1996-97. That slower growth will become even more pronounced between 2001-02 and 2007-08, although the nation is projected to see about 817,000, or 2%, more public enrollments in 2007-08 than in 2001-02.
  • Both the Midwest and Northeast will experience declines in public school enrollment between 2001-02 and 2007-08. The Midwest will see about 72,000 fewer students, less than a 1% decline. The biggest numerical losses will be in the Northeast.

National and Regional Public and Nonpublic High School Graduates

  • The U.S. is projected to experience a peak of approximately 2.9 million public high school graduates in 2008-09.
  • The Midwest and Northeast are projected to peak in 2007-08. While the West, like the nation, is expected to see its peak year for graduates in 2008-09, the South will see its high point in 2009-10.
  • Nationally, annual increases in the number of graduates are expected to range from about 6,300, a .2% increase, to 79,000, a 2.5% increase between 2001-02 and 2017-18.
  • Most of the second decade of this century will be characterized by fewer high school graduates each year. An upturn is projected in about 10% more graduates in 2017-18 than in 2001-02.
  • Growth in the number of public high school graduates will be uneven among the regions: the Northeast is projected to experience little change, with 700 more graduates in the class 2018 than in the class of 2014. The Midwest may see 17,200 more public graduates, a 2.7% increase. The West is expected to see 15.8% growth, or nearly 97,000 more public graduates, and an 18.7% increase, or 155,000 students, is projected for the South.
  • Increases in the number of graduates from nonpublic schools will occur primarily in the South.

Public High School Graduates by Family Income

  • Enrollment in grades 6 though 12 of students from families earning $20,000 per year or less is forecast to grow to 4.41 million in 2006-07, an increase of 1.8% from 2001-02. The number of students from families earning between $20,001 and $50,000 is projected to increase by 2.3% to 8.6 million in 2006-07; while 8.7 million a 3.4% increase, will come from families earning between $50,001 and $100,000. Families with incomes of over $100,000 will contribute about 3.65 million students in 2007-08.
  • By 2006-07, nearly 16% of public high school graduates will be from families earning up to $20,000 per year; a nearly equal proportion will be from the highest income group. The two middle-income groups will account for nearly equal shares - 35% and 33% of this enrollment.
  • The number of low-income graduates in the U.S. will grow from about 438,000 graduates in the class of 2002 in the U.S. to about 463,000 in 2007.
  • The Midwest is projected to see higher rates of growth in graduates from higher income families and lower rates of growth in graduates from families of lesser financial means.
  • While the Northeast and the West combined will account from an additional 342,000 graduates from families earning between $50,001 and $100,000, the slowest growth will be in the Midwest.
  • Projected growth in the number of public high school graduates from families earning more than $100,000 ranges from 9% in the Midwest to almost 15% in the Northeast.

National and Regional Enrollments and Graduates by Race/Ethnicity

  • At the national level, American Indians/Alaska Natives will see the least change in their share of total public school enrollments, but their numbers are expected to increase to about 547,000 by 2007-08.
  • Asian/Pacific Islander students have been increasing their share of public school enrollments are expected to have close to 2.2 million students enrolled in 2007-08.
  • Black, non-Hispanics will see little change in their numbers or share of enrollments and are forecast to have nearly the same level of enrollments in 2007-08 as in 2001-02: 7.3 million students.
  • The biggest change will come fro Hispanics, as this group will grow its hare from nearly 17% in 2001-02 to a projected 21% in 2007-08, with nearly 9.2 million students enrolled that year.
  • In contrast, White, non-Hispanics will continue to decline, both in number and share of enrollments, from nearly 61% of public enrollments in 2001-02 to an estimated 56% by 2007-08, with 24.6 million students in school.
  • The class of 2014 in the U.S. is expected to be somewhat more than one-half White, non-Hispanic and nearly one-fifth Hispanic.
  • Regional comparisons show very different distributions of the high school graduates by race/ethnicity in 2001-02. By 2013-14, the graduating class in the West is expected to be about one-third Hispanic and less than one-half White, non-Hispanic (44%), making the West a minority majority region for public high school graduates.
  • The Midwest will see American Indians/Alaskan Natives, Asian/Pacific Islanders, Black, non-Hispanics, and Hispanics increasing their number and shares of graduates. White, non-Hispanics will see measurable loss in share and number of graduates.
  • After 2007-08, the U.S. will experience an extended period of declining numbers of White, non-Hispanic graduates, with about 1.6 million graduates expected in 2013-14, compared to nearly 1,8 million in 1993-94.


Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. (2003, December). Knocking at the

college door: Projections of high school graduates by state, income, and race/ethnicity. Boulder, CO: Author.

Submitted by R.M. Johnson, May 2004. This is a report summary and excerpts are quoted directly from the text.

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