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2018 December 17

Changes in student populations

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:14
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There has been a lot of discussion at Inside Higher Education (and other higher-education media sites) lately about colleges failing because of enrollment difficulties due to the declining number of high-school graduates.

I think that this discussion has been colored largely by strongly regional phenomena.  A report by the National Center for Education Statistics shows that the Northeast and Midwest are dropping in K–12 students, but the West and South are increasing.  Overall, the K–12 population is growing, though very slowly: projected growth is 0.18% a year, while past growth has been about 0.22% a year. So the story should not be of shrinking numbers of students for college, but a shift in where the students are coming from.  We may indeed have an oversupply of colleges in New England, with a shortage in the South and West.

Even more strongly, the report shows a shift in racial/ethnic demographics of the K–12 population, with a strong growth in Hispanic students (1.3% a year) and a shrinkage in white students (-0.5%/year).  The Asian/Pacific Islander category is expected to grow strongly also (1.4%/year), but black student population should remain fairly flat.  I wonder how much of the panic about colleges not being able to get students is due to the colleges marketing only to white students, who formed their traditional core, and not to the growing numbers of Hispanic students.

For projected number of high-school graduates, the racial shift is even stronger: White -0.7%/year, Black +1.2%/year, Hispanic  +1.9%/year, Asian/Pacific Islander +1.2%/year.

UCSC, where I teach, is bursting at the seams with far more students than we have the facilities for, with no signs that demand is shrinking.  UCSC qualifies as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, with about 26% of students being Hispanic, and UCSC also has a fairly large Asian enrollment (again, about 26%). Source:

I wonder how much of the discussion of the problem of shrinking enrollment in colleges is due to regional blinders and how much is due to racial blinders.


  1. I think these biases may be kind of true about a lot of university reporting — I don’t see my university in a lot of the dialogue. And it doesn’t seem to be the case in other southern universities where I have colleagues such as FIU and UCF. Although in South many small Christian colleges are suffering. In a northwest, My PhD advisor just took a position at University of Washington Bothell, which is seemingly busting at the seams, growing rapidly with a diverse population. I agree there is a lot of regional and race biases at play in the main stream narrative.

    Comment by bwfrank — 2018 December 17 @ 10:42 | Reply

  2. Interestingly, I recently came across demographic data for California’s K-12 schools. The source data comes primarily from and its earlier website.

    It appears that California’s total K-12 enrollment has been relatively flat at about 6.1 to 6.3 million students since about 2003, maintained by a strong influx of Hispanic/Latino students to offset declining enrollment among White and Black/African American students. Total enrollment fell slightly from its peak in 2005.

    The chart linked below shows the change in enrollment over time according to the racial/ethnic categories tracked by the State of California.

    Currently, Hispanic/Latino students are the majority group in California’s K-12 schools and have been since 2010.

    Comment by prevailingtech — 2018 December 17 @ 11:48 | Reply

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