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Total spending by all levels of government on education will hit a record $493.3 billion this school year, a 50 percent increase over the past decade after adjustment for inflation, according to the U.S. Education Department's annual back-to-school forecast.

The proportion of the nation's gross domestic product spent on education increased from 6.7 percent in 1983 to 7.9 percent for this school year--the highest gain for a 10-year period, said Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley.

Spending for elementary and secondary schools is projected at $295.2 billion in 1993-94, up 47 percent over the past decade after adjusting for inflation. Spending last school year was $279.4 billion, the department says.

Per-pupil spending for K-12 is estimated at $5,920, up from $5,721 last year. Those figures do not include capital outlays and interest payments.

The department also says that preschool and kindergarten enrollment has increased from 6.4 million last fall to 6.6 million this year.

The forecast also highlights the changing demographics of U.S. schools: 31.5 percent of K-12 students this year come from racial or ethnic minorities, up from 26.8 percent in 1983.

In addition, the department estimates that a record 15 million students will enroll in the nation's colleges and universities this fall.

Enrollment at the nation's independent schools increased 1.7 percent between the 1991-92 and 1992-93 school years, according to annual figures released by the National Association of Independent Schools.

Growth was particularly strong in preschool programs, where enrollment grew 3 percent, and postgraduate and 13th-year programs, which swelled 12.7 percent.

Overall enrollment in the core group of schools surveyed grew 1 percent and 0.7 percent in the previous two school years. Total enrollment in N.A.I.S. schools nationally stood at 387,065 students for 1992-93.

The most dramatic enrollment increases were seen in the Southeast and West, where the number of students rose 6.8 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively, over the period.

The percentage of students of color who are American citizens also rose last school year to 13.7 percent, compared with 13.5 percent in 1991-92 and 9.3 percent 10 years ago.

The percentage of students receiving need-based financial aid climbed from 16 percent to 16.2 percent over the period. The average grant also increased, from $5,018 in 1991-92 to $5,414 in 1992-93.

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