College & Workforce Readiness Report Roundup

Graduation Numbers Projected to Flatline

By Madeline Will — December 13, 2016 1 min read

The overall number of high school graduates has been increasing steadily over the last decade or so, but according to a new report, that growth is coming to a halt.

The supply of U.S. high school graduates is expected to show virtually no growth for the next seven years and will likely decline this school year, says the report by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, a regional nonprofit that aims to expand access to high-quality higher education. The report was funded with support from ACT Inc. and the College Board.

There have been steady increases in the overall number of high school graduates over the last 15 years, and, at last count, the high school graduation rate increased by 1 percentage point to 83.2 percent from the 2013-14 school year to 2014-15. That marked the fourth year in a row of high school graduation-rate increases.

Tracking the Supply of High School Graduates

Year-after-year increases in the number of students graduating from high school are expected to end in 2017. Researchers say the number won’t rise again until 2024.

BRIC ARCHIVE

Source: Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education

But the report projects that the country actually will produce 81,000 fewer graduates—2.3 percent less—in 2017 and the decline is largely due to changing demographics. The number of students graduating from private high schools will decline even more sharply—by 26 percent, or 80,000 fewer graduates, from 2011 to the early 2030s. This is due to declining enrollments in private schools, particularly in Roman Catholic schools, the report notes.

The report also projects significant increases in nonwhite high school graduates, coupled with steady declines in the numbers of white graduates. By 2030, the number of white public school graduates is projected to decrease by 14 percent when compared to 2013. But the rising number of nonwhite public school graduates is expected to counterbalance some of that decline, particularly so for Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander graduates.

A version of this article appeared in the December 14, 2016 edition of Education Week as Graduation Numbers Projected to Flatline

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