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Shift in Number of Graduates Seen

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The number of high-school graduates nationwide will rise, fall, and then rise again in "roller coaster'' fashion between now and the beginning of the next century, according to the projections contained in a new study.

The report by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education projects a net gain of 10 percent in high-school graduates between 1986 and the year 2004. The projections are based on both public- and private-school enrollments in the 50 states and in the District of Columbia.

But these national figures, it says, mask important regional differences that will mean overall losses for states in the Northeast and North-central regions, and increases for Western and Southern states that are greater than the national average.

According to the report, the number of graduates nationally will increase through this year, before dipping sharply and staying at low levels through the mid-1990's. The number will then rise steadily through the beginning of the next century, reaching 2.91 million graduates by 2004.

The report, which is the third such project undertaken by WICHE, indicates that national graduation patterns between 1986 and 2004 will mirror the up-and-down cycle of school enrollments since the 1970's, when the last "baby boom'' children graduated from high school.

There will be a 4 percent increase in the number of public- and private-school graduates between 1986 and 1988, it shows. But during the following four years, the figure will drop by 12 percent. By the year 2004, however, the number of high-school graduates will exceed the 1986 level by 10 percent.

The study, which was also sponsored by the College Board and the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association, projects that states in the West and the South/South-central regions of the country will have increases in the number of graduates of 47 percent and 16 percent, respectively, by 2004.

Alaska and Nevada may double the number of students they graduate from high school by 2004, according to the report. Other states projected to have significant gains are Arizona, California, and Florida.

The Northeast and North-central parts of the country, on the other hand, will lose students, with West Virginia, Iowa, Idaho, and Wyoming projected to have significant decreases by 2004.

The study, which was based on demographic data and past school-enrollment and graduation statistics, also projects that number of private-school graduates nationwide will decrease by 17 percent by the year 2000.

Copies of the report, "High School Graduates: Projections by State, 1986 to 2004,'' are available for $10.00 each plus a $2.00 handling charge from WICHE, P.O. Box Drawer P, Boulder, Colo. 80301-9752.--EF

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