From school years 2010–11 through 2021–22, public elementary and secondary school enrollment is projected to increase by 7 percent from 49.5 to 53.1 million students, but with changes across states ranging from an increase of 22 percent to a decrease of 15 percent.
In school year 2010–11, some 49.5 million students were enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools. Of these students, 34.6 million were enrolled in prekindergarten (preK) through grade 8, and 14.9 million were enrolled in grades 9 through 12 (see table A-3-1). Public school enrollment declined during the 1970s and early 1980s and rose in the latter part of the 1980s. Enrollment continued to increase throughout the 1990s and early 2000s (see table A-3-1).
By school year 1997–98, public school enrollment had reached 46.1 million students and had surpassed its early 1970s peak. Between 2000–01 and 2006–07, public school enrollment increased by 2.1 million students, reaching 49.3 million students in school year 2006–07, where it remained until 2008–09. Total public school enrollment reached 49.5 million in 2010–11. From 2010–11 to 2021–22, total public school enrollment is projected to increase by 7 percent to 53.1 million (2021–22 is the last year for which projected data are available).
Enrollment trends in grades preK–8 and 9–12 have differed over time as successive cohorts of students moved through the public school system. For example, enrollment in grades preK–8 decreased throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, while enrollment in grades 9–12 generally decreased in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s (see table A-3-1). Enrollment in grades preK–8 increased from 1985–86 through 2003–04 and fluctuated between 34.2 million and 34.6 million between 2003–04 and 2010–11. Public school enrollment in grades preK–8 is projected to increase from 34.6 million in 2010–11 to an estimated 37.6 million in 2021–22, an increase of 9 percent. Public school enrollment in grades 9–12 increased from 1991–92 through 2007–08, but declined through 2010–11 and is projected to continue declining through 2012–13. From 2013–14 through 2021–22, enrollment in grades 9–12 is projected to increase and to surpass its 2007–08 level by 2021–22. Overall, public school enrollment in grades 9–12 is projected to increase 4 percent between 2010–11 and 2021–22.
Total public enrollment increased in each region between school years 1989–90 and 2010–11, with enrollment increasing more rapidly in the West and South (35 and 29 percent, respectively) and less rapidly in the Northeast and Midwest (12 and 8 percent, respectively) (see table A-3-2). Total public enrollment is projected to increase from 2010–11 to 2021–22 most rapidly in the West and South (13 and 9 percent, respectively) (see table A-3-3). Total public enrollment is projected to increase 2 percent in both the Midwest and Northeast.
Public school enrollment in grades preK–12 increased in 41 states from 1989–90 to 2010–11, with the greatest increases occurring in Nevada and Arizona (134 and 76 percent, respectively) (see table A-3-2). During that period, total enrollment declined in 9 states and the District of Columbia. From 2010–11 to 2021–22, Alaska, Nevada, and Arizona are projected to see the greatest percentage increases in total enrollment (22, 21, and 20, respectively) (see table A-3-3). The District of Columbia is projected to see the largest percentage decrease in total enrollment over the same time period (15 percent).
From 2010–11 to 2021–22, the changes in public elementary and secondary enrollments are projected to differ among the states. Reflecting the larger national enrollment increase expected at the preK–8 than at the grade 9–12 level, 43 states are expected to have enrollment increase at the preK–8 level between 2009–10 to 2021–22, while 36 states are expected to have increases at the grade 9–12 level during that period. In grades preK–8, enrollment is projected to increase more than 20 percent in Alaska, Nevada, Arizona, and Washington but decrease 13 and 11 percent, respectively, in the District of Columbia and West Virginia. Enrollment in grades 9–12 in Texas is expected to increase more than 20 percent, while enrollment in these grades in the District of Columbia is projected to decrease 20 percent or more.
The most recent year of actual data is 2010–11, and 2021–22 is the last year for which projected data are available. For more information on projections, see NCES 2012-044. Some data have been revised from previously published figures. Detail may not sum to totals due to rounding. For a list of the states in each region, see Appendix C – Commonly Used Measures.
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