What are the enrollment trends in public and private elementary and secondary schools?
Total enrollment in public and private elementary and secondary schools (prekindergarten through grade 12) grew rapidly during the 1950s and 1960s, reaching a peak year in 1971. This growth in enrollment reflected what is known as the “baby boom,” a dramatic increase in births following World War II. Between 1971 and 1984, total elementary and secondary school enrollment decreased every year, reflecting a decline in the size of the school-age population over that period. After these years of decline, enrollment in elementary and secondary schools started increasing in fall 1985, began hitting new record levels in the mid-1990s, and continued to reach new record levels every year through 2006. After declining 1 percent between 2006 and 2011, enrollments in 2019 are projected to have increased 3 percent over 2011 levels. Enrollments since fall 2013 have remained above the fall 2006 enrollment of 55.3 million, the final year of the post “baby boom” record highs. Before the coronavirus pandemic, national changes in school enrollment were projected to remain relatively small through 2029, with annual percentage changes of less than 0.4 percent. However, as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic remains unknown, these projections are subject to revision.
Between 1985 and 2018, the total public and private elementary and secondary school enrollment rate decreased for 5- and 6-year-olds (typical ages for preprimary grades) from 96 to 94 percent, and for 7- to 13-year-olds (typical ages for elementary grades) from 99 to 98 percent. In contrast, the enrollment rate for 14- to 17-year-olds (typical ages for secondary grades) in 2018 (95 percent) was not measurably different from the rate in 1985.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2021). Digest of Education Statistics, 2019 (NCES 2021-009), Chapter 1.
Fall enrollment, total expenditures, and expenditures as a percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP), by level of education: Selected years, 1965–66 through 2018–19
NOTE: Elementary and secondary enrollment data for school year 2018 (2018–19) are projected. Elementary and secondary expenditure data for school years 2017 and 2018 (2017–18 and 2018–19) and postsecondary expenditure data for school year 2018 (2018–19) are estimated based on teacher and enrollment data and actual expenditures for prior years.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2021). Digest of Education Statistics, 2019 (NCES 2021-009), Figure 2.
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