Graduating Classes Predicted to be Smaller, More Diverse

The competition for college admissions might become softer if the recent prediction that the number of high school graduates in America is going on decline proves to be true. The Knocking at the College Door report from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education says that there will be slightly fewer students graduating high school [...]

The competition for college admissions might become softer if the recent prediction that the number of high school graduates in America is going on decline proves to be true. The Knocking at the College Door report from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education says that there will be slightly fewer students graduating high school in the next decade, but that the ranks of graduates will become more racially and ethnically diverse.

According to the report released last week, there had been a steady growth in the number of students earning high school diplomas annually for more than 10 years with the numbers peaking in 2011. Since then there has been a slight decline which the report predicts will continue for at least another 10 or 11 years.

That means that colleges will have to work harder to keep enrollment numbers at the same level by assigning more resources to recruitment and using innovative methods to identify and pursue promising potential applicants.

The effect will be uneven across the country. The Northeast and Midwest will experience the largest declines, with smaller ones in the West and some growth in the South, particularly in Texas and Georgia, the study found. In California, the ranks of high school graduates peaked two years ago at 430,292 and is expected to be 408,467 in 2012-13. Possibly easing enrollment pressures at state colleges and universities, a general decline will follow to a low of 384,600 projected in 2019-2020. The state will then see some modest growth for the next five years but the ranks of its new high school graduates will remain well below the peak.

Besides the changes in the numbers of graduates, another significant shift will be in demographics of the graduating classes. Authors of the study predict that close to half of all students getting a high school diploma by the end of the decade will be non-white — close to 7% growth over 2009 numbers. The largest increase will be in the number of Latino students, with anticipated 41% growth. The number of white students is expected to decline by 12% while the number of black students will decline by 9% over the same period.

Colleges and universities should review their recruitment, financial aid and student support policies for a more ethnically diverse future, the report suggested. Higher education must “address the fact that systems, policies and practices designed for an earlier, more racially/ethnically homogenous era will not suffice.”

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