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Shrinking High-School Graduate Ranks Bear on College Recruiting

Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) -- The number of U.S. high-school graduates is expected to decline through the rest of the decade, with the largest drop in non-hispanic whites, raising questions about how colleges will recruit and enroll students.

After two decades of growth, the number of high-school graduates probably peaked at 3.4 million in the 2010-2011 school year, according to projections released today by the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, a nonprofit research group in Boulder, Colorado.

In the next decade, the Midwest and Northeast can expect the biggest decrease in graduates, while the South and West are most likely to see growth, particularly in hispanic students. Colleges will need to develop strategies on how to fill classes as they deal with smaller populations, and families weigh the value of college with costs as student borrowers graduate with record-high debt levels. Some private schools charge more than $60,000 a year.

“Schools can no longer choose from ever-growing pools of potential applicants,” Brian Prescott, the study’s principal author, said in an interview. “The whole environment of admissions and enrollment management is shifting in fundamental ways, with schools facing even tougher decisions about how to recruit, where to recruit and how to keep the students that they recruit enrolled.”

The next period of high-school student growth won’t begin until 2020 and will continue to the 2026-2027 school year, according to the report.

Hispanic Students

The study projects that between the 2008-2009 and 2019-2020 school years, the number of hispanic high-school graduates will increase 41 percent, or almost 200,000, while Asian/Pacific Islander graduates will rise 30 percent, or almost 50,000.

The number of white non-hispanic students will decline 12 percent, or about 228,000, and black graduates will decrease 41,000, or 9 percent.

The study, published about every five years, analyzed federal birth data from the National Center for Health Statistics. The authors developed ratios of students born in a given year who go to first grade about six years later and then performed the same analysis for subsequent years to determine projections, Prescott said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Janet Lorin in New York

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Wolfson at

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