Younger, Minority Pupils Swell Independent-School Rolls

June 21, 1989 2 min read

Independent schools enrolled increased numbers of younger and minority students this year, but fewer older and boarding students, according to figures made available last week by the National Association of Independent Schools.

The association’s annual statistical bulletin shows total enrollment in member schools increasing from 353,934 in 1987-88 to 355,045 in the current school year. Since 1981, enrollment has risen 6.8 percent.

But the report also notes that this year’s growth--and most of the growth since 1981--was due to an increase in the number of schools that belong to the nais, rather than to the expansion of individual schools.

Enrollment in an unchanging core sample of 756 schools fell 0.6 percent between 1987-88 and 1988-89.

“The slight drop in enrollment continues to reflect demographics,” said Selby Holmberg, spokesman for the association. “I think we will continue to see that for a few years.”

The nais represents nonprofit private schools that are not supported by church or tax money.

Minority enrollment in nais schools grew from 11.6 percent of the total in 1987-88 to 12.2 percent this year, the report indicates.

Between 1981 and 1988, black enrollment increased from 4.2 percent to 5 percent of all students, while Asian-American enrollment went8from 3.1 percent to 5.1 percent and Hispanic enrollment rose from 1.8 percent to 2 percent.

The number of boarding-school students fell by 1,517--the largest annual reduction in a decade, according to the report. Since 1981, boarding-school enrollment has declined 5.4 percent. The percentage of boarding-school students among all students in nais schools has declined from 13.2 percent in 1981 to 11.8 percent this year.

One reason is that most boarders are in the secondary grades, where total enrollment has declined in the 1980’s, noted Rick Cowan, director of boarding schools for the association.

The core sample of schools indicates a trend of enrollment growth in the early grades, coupled with reductions in middle and upper grades, according to the report.

Preschool and kindergarten enrollment has increased 30.5 percent since 1981, while overall elementary enrollment has risen 16.5 percent.

But enrollment in the middle grades has declined 8 percent, and secondary enrollment has fallen 1 percent, over the same period.

Also since 1981, enrollment of female students in independent schools has grown more than twice as fast as that of male students. Females now account for 47.7 percent of independent-school students attending nais institutions.--mw

A version of this article appeared in the June 21, 1989 edition of Education Week as Younger, Minority Pupils Swell Independent-School Rolls