Study Shows High School Populations Growing More Diverse

January 10, 2013  |  


More evidence of the browning of America. The eighth edition of Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates, released by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), found that the population of U.S. high school graduates is rapidly growing more racially and ethnically diverse. There was also a modest decline in the number of graduates after almost two decades of sustained growth. The former means that the pool of potential college students will be more diverse.

“These two trends will define the ‘new normal’ for our colleges and universities—and will require those of us working in higher education to change the way we do business,” said David Longanecker, president of WICHE, which published Knocking at the College Door with support from ACT and the College Board, in a press statement.

This shift in the demographics of high school students will require policymakers and practitioners to address the needs of  traditionally underrepresented groups.

“Institutions will no longer be able to rely on growth in the number of traditional-aged students to boost funding. At the same time, the changing demographics of our high school graduating classes will mean greater demand for a college education from students we traditionally have not served well,” stated Longanecker. “Higher education must commit to finding innovative, cost-effective ways to prepare those students to succeed in our 21st century global economy.”

According to the study, The District of Columbia, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont all saw declines in high school enrollment (losses of 15 percent or more).  And the new stats in the press release indicate that by 2019/2020, 45 percent of the nation’s public high school graduates are projected to be non-white, up by more than seven percent over the class of 2009.

Driving this trend is the rapid increase in the number of Hispanics completing high school — between the 2008/2009 and 2019/2020 school years, the number of white public high school grads will drop by 228,000, while Hispanic graduates will increase by 197,000. However, there is a disturbing drop among African-American enrollment and completion. The number of black non-Hispanics is expected to drop by 41,000.

Also expected to drop are the number of people enrolled in college. Moody’s Investors Service says the income crush and uncertain job landscape is keeping students away.

“Before the financial crisis of 2008, colleges and universities routinely raised tuition and saw little impact on the number of prospective students who applied. Indeed, some private colleges said that applications actually increased when they bolstered prices, apparently because families equated higher prices with quality,” The New York Times reports.

What do we need to do to raise educational interest from black students?

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