U.S. Public and Nonpublic High School Graduates, 1996-97 to 2027-28

Brian Prescott
Director of Policy Research
Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)
For over 30 years, WICHE has periodically released projections of the number (and racial/ethnic breakdown) of high school graduates being produced by each state. This graph shows the total number of graduates the nation can expect between 2009-10 and 2027-28, as reported on in the 8th edition of Knocking at the College Door released in January 2013. It illustrates a dramatic change in the size of the pool of prospective traditional-age college entrants: after a peak in 2010-11 at over 3.4 million graduates, colleges and universities can expect the production of high school graduates to dip slightly. The peak year brings to an end a nearly two-decade-long era of continual, rapid growth in the number of students leaving high school and considering postsecondary education (and does not even address the growing numbers of adult learners seeking the same thing). The recruitment and admissions policies and practices established and refined during this era of uninterrupted growth may not be optimal for the new reality of a stagnant and, in some geographic regions, declining applicant pool. This demographic change, together with rapid diversification along racial/ethnic lines, also add to the climate of fiscal distress facing higher education institutions, both public and private, as they compete over a smaller pool of academically well-prepared, traditional-age applicants.



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