It's back-to-school time—what do we know about our nation's students and schools?
Across the country, students are preparing to head back to school for the 2022–23 academic year. Each year, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) compiles back-to-school facts and figures that provide a snapshot of schools and colleges in the United States. Learn more below and listen to our audiogram for highlights from this back-to-school Fast Fact.
Much of the data presented in this Fast Fact were collected in 2020 or 2021 during the coronavirus pandemic, but some of the data were collected before the pandemic began. While all data collected since the spring of 2020 capture impacts of the pandemic, the following resources provide information specifically about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on education:
How many students attended school in recent years?
In fall 2021, about 49.5 million students were enrolled in public schools in prekindergarten to grade 12, including ungraded students (source). Please note, these data are preliminary and are meant to provide readers with a timely release of basic enrollment estimates. These estimates are subject to change. Of the 49.5 million public school students:
In 2019–20, about 4.7 million students attended private schools (source). This estimate includes prekindergarten enrollment in schools that offer kindergarten or a higher grade.
How did fall 2021 public school enrollment compare with enrollment in previous years?
Preliminary data for fall 2021 show that some 49.5 million students were enrolled in public schools in prekindergarten through grade 12, which was higher than enrollment in fall 2020 (49.4 million) by a difference of about 78,100 students (source, source). Public school enrollment was higher in all years from 2010 to 2019 than it was in 2020 and 2021, ranging from 49.5 million students in fall 20101 to 50.8 million students in fall 2019 (source, source, source).
What were the demographics of public school students in fall 2021?
The 49.5 million public school students enrolled in prekindergarten through grade 12 in fall 2021 included (source):
To learn more about student demographics, explore other NCES Fast Facts, which focus on topics including:
What percentage of public schools offered different learning modes in spring 2022?
In spring 2022, nearly all schools offered in-person instruction, but some also offered remote and/or hybrid instruction (source). Specifically:
Visit our Fast Fact on distance learning in elementary and secondary schools to learn more about previous school years’ distance learning in the United States.
How many teachers were there in the United States in recent years?
Visit our Fast Fact on teacher trends to learn more about the teaching profession in the United States.
How much was spent on PK–12 education in 2019–20?
(Note: Current expenditures exclude prekindergarten in Arizona, New York, and Oregon. Current expenditures for California include only expenditures for K–12 and special education preschool programs. Dollar amounts are not adjusted for inflation.)
How many students attended colleges and universities in fall 2020?
About 19.4 million students attended colleges and universities in fall 2020 (source).
What were the characteristics of students who were enrolled in colleges and universities in fall 2020?
How did fall 2020 postsecondary enrollment compare with enrollment in previous years?
Postsecondary enrollment in fall 2020 (19.4 million students) was about 10 percent lower than in fall 2010 (21.6 million students), when enrollment was at its peak (source).
How many postsecondary students participated in distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic?
In fall 2020, some 73 percent of postsecondary students (14.1 million) were enrolled in any distance education course, compared with 27 percent of students (5.3 million) who were not enrolled in distance education (source).
Of the 14.1 million postsecondary students enrolled in fall 2020 in any distance education course, 39 percent of students (5.4 million) were enrolled in distance education for some but not all of their courses, and 61 percent of students (8.6 million) were enrolled exclusively in distance education courses.
Visit our Fast Fact on distance learning among postsecondary students to learn more about distance learning in the United States.
During the 2019–20 academic year, how many degrees did colleges and universities award?
1 Although enrollment rounded to 49.5 million in both years, enrollment was about 31,000 students higher in fall 2010 than in fall 2021.
NCES publishes a wide range of data on school enrollment, assessments, graduation rates, technology in education, costs of postsecondary education, fields of study (or majors), educational attainment, and employment outcomes in annual publications.
As you can see, NCES publishes data on many topics that may be of interest to you. Consider exploring the Condition of Education, the Digest of Education Statistics, or the Distance Learning Dataset Training modules to learn more.
Other Resources: (Listed by Release Date)