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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.

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