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New Projections Out for College Enrollment and Completion

During the next decade, high school enrollment is expected to decline, while the number of students going to college will continue to increase. And more Americans will be completing postsecondary certificates and degrees, but not likely at the rate many hoped if the country is to become the world's leader in education attainment again.

New forecasts released yesterday from the National Center for Education Statistics are merely projections, but they do help educators and policymakers craft strategies in anticipation of population trends.

Among the highlights of Projections of Education Statistics to 2019:

• The number of high school students in grades 9-12 will grow less than 1 percent from 2007 to 2019. By contrast, there was a 23 percent surge in high school enrollment from 1994 to 2007.

• The number of high school graduates is expected to rise by just 1 percent in the next decade, compared to an increase of about 27 percent in high school completion in the previous 12 years.

• Enrollment in college and other postsecondary training is on pace to grow by 17 percent through 2019—about the same for full-time and part-time attendance. Filling in for the fewer number of high school grads will be more students in their late 20s going back to school. This increase is far less than the boom from 1994 to 2008, when college numbers swelled by 34 percent.

• The college completion picture is much brighter: The country is expected to produce 23 percent more bachelor's degrees and 30 percent more associate degrees in the next decade. While encouraging, completion rates would have to grow at a much faster clip than anticipated to reach the goal of the Obama Administration and several nonprofit advocacy groups: increasing the percentage of Americans with college degrees from roughly 40 to 60 percent by 2020.

• Women are expected increasingly to outnumber men on campuses, with female enrollment projected to grow by 21 percent, compared to 12 percent for men. This would translate into women making up 59 percent of all postsecondary students by 2019.

• Looking at growth in college enrollment by racial and ethnic groups, the report projects Hispanic and Latino students will increase by 45 percent, 30 percent for black students, 30 percent for Asian/Pacific Islander students, 7 percent for white students, and 5 percent for American Indian or Alaska Native students.

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