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Status of Education in Rural America
NCES 2007-040
June 2007

3.3. Public school capacity


In rural areas, as well as nationally, a larger percentage of public schools reported being underenrolled than overenrolled in fall 2005. The percentage of public schools reporting severe underenrollment in rural areas was greater than in all other locales. In contrast, the percentage of public schools reporting severe overenrollment was lower in rural areas than in cities and suburbs.

In fall 2005, 60 percent of all public schools reported being underenrolled (i.e., enrolling more than 5 percent below the number of students the school was designed to accommodate in its permanent facilities), 18 percent reported being overenrolled (i.e., enrolling more than 5 percent above the designed capacity of the school's permanent facilities), and 22 percent reported enrollments within 5 percent of their designed capacity (table 3.3 and figure 3.3). Specifically, 38 percent of public schools reported moderate underenrollment (by 6 to 25 percent of capacity), 21 percent of public schools reported severe underenrollment (by more than 25 percent of capacity), 10 percent of public schools reported moderate overenrollment (of 6 to 25 percent of capacity), and 8 percent reported severe overenrollment (of more than 25 percent of capacity).

Similar to the national pattern, a greater percentage of rural public schools reported underenrollment (69 percent) than overenrollment (13 percent). Specifically, about 36 percent of rural public schools reported that they were moderately underenrolled, and 33 percent reported severe underenrollment. In contrast, 8 percent of rural public schools reported moderate overenrollment, while 5 percent reported that they were severely overenrolled. In addition, 18 percent of rural public schools reported that their enrollment was within 5 percent of their designed capacity.

The percentage of rural public schools reporting that they were severely underenrolled (33 percent) was greater than the percentages in towns, cities, and suburban areas (18, 16, and 12 percent, respectively). In contrast, the percentage of rural public schools reporting that they were severely overenrolled (5 percent) was smaller than the percentages in cities and suburban areas (13 and 10 percent, respectively).

The percentage of rural public schools reporting that they were enrolled at capacity (18 percent) was lower than in suburban areas (27 percent), but was not measurably different from the percentages in cities or towns.

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