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Enrollment's Up! Survey Sees End Of 13-Year Slide

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Washington--For the first time in 13 years, total enrollment in the nation's private and public elementary and secondary schools is expected to increase this fall, according to the Education Department's annual "back-to-school" forecast.

The rise in total enrollment--which will reach 44.68 million, up slightly from 44.63 million last year--will reverse a steady downward trend that began in 1971, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which produced the forecast from data provided by state departments of education. The information was released last week.

According to the report, the enrollment increase will occur primarily at the nursery-school and kindergarten levels, where enrollment is expected to rise from 3.7 million in 1984 to 3.8 million this fall.

The increase is due to the "baby boomlet" of offspring born to members of the post-World War II "baby boom." That group, born between the mid-1940's and the early 1960's, represents the largest segment of the U.S. population, and its children will affect enrollment growth for a decade or more.

Though enrollments in grades 1 through 3 will increase this year, expected declines in the upper elementary grades will offset the gains, according to the nces, and total enrollment in grades 1 through 8 will decrease slightly, from 27.3 million to 27.2 million.

The center also said a small increase of about 60,000 is expected to boost enrollment in grades 9 through 12 to 13.7 million.

"This fall's increase in pre-primary and early elementary-school enrollment presages a new trend that will affect elementary and secondary-school enrollment for a number of years," the report notes. "The number of children born in the United States began to rise in 1977, and the trend of births has generally been upward in subsequent years."

According to the nces, elementary-school enrollment will increase annually from now through the early 1990's.

"The new wave of pupils will then have a positive effect upon enrollment at the secondary level," with annual increases in enrollment expected in grades 9 through 12 for several years beginning in the early 1990's, according to the survey.

Despite the drop in the 18-to-24-year-old population, total college enrollment this fall will remain relatively stable at around 12.3 million, representing a decrease of less than 1 percent from 1984. College enrollment will suffer only modest declines over the next decade, the Education Department predicts, due to increased attendance by nontraditional students--those who are older or attend school part-time--and by women and members of minority groups.

Americans will spend a total of $261.5 billion on education at all levels next year, up from $240 billion last year, the forecast estimates. Total expenditures at the secondary and elementary-school level will rise, it projects, from $148.9 billion to $159.3 billion this year. Public elementary and secondary schools are expected to spend about $146 billion this year, while private institutions are expected to spend $13.3 billion.

Spending at the postsecondary level is also expected to increase, up from $95.5 billion last year to $102.2 billion this year.

Thomas Snyder, a statistician for the center, attributed the increased expenditures to cost-of-living increases and higher salaries for collegiate and precollegiate faculty members.

The forecast also notes that:

Nearly 2.5 million elementary- and secondary-school teachers will be employed this fall, about the same number as last year.

An estimated 2.7 million young people graduated from public and private high schools in 1985; 2.6 million are expected to do so in 1986. These numbers still show a downward trend from the peak year of 1977, when 3.2 million students received diplomas.

The number of people earning professional degrees--in law and medicine, for example--is expected to reach an all-time high of 74,000 this year. But the number of those earning a baccalaureate degree (945,000), a Master of Arts degree (290,000), and a doctoral degree (33,000) is expected to be down slightly from last year.

Spending by all educational institutions for the 1985-86 school year is expected to amount to 6.7 percent of the total gross national product, as it has in recent years.

This fall, "63.4 million Americans will be involved, directly or indirectly, in providing or receiving a formal education," the report states. "In a nation with a population of nearly 239 million, more than one out of every four persons will be participants in the educational process."

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