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Back-to-school statistics

Question:
It’s back-to-school time—what do we know about our nation’s students and schools?

Response:

Across the country, students are preparing to head back to school—whether in person, online, or through some combination of the two—for the 2021–22 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.

Welcome Back to School

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, projected data were not available for this year’s Fast Fact. Much of the data presented in this Fast Fact were collected in 2020 or 2021, but some of the data were collected before the pandemic began. The following resources provide information about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on education:

To locate the latest findings from NCES, search for recent Publications & Products and peruse the NCES Blog.

PK–12 EDUCATION

COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY EDUCATION


PK–12 EDUCATION

Enrollment

How many students attended school in recent years?

In fall 2020, about 49.4 million students attended 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 49.4 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.

About 3.7 million students are projected to have graduated from high school in the 2018–19 school year, including 3.3 million students from public schools and 0.4 million students from private schools (source).

How did fall 2020 public school enrollment compare with previous years?

Using preliminary data for fall 2020, some 49.4 million students were enrolled in public schools in prekindergarten through grade 12, which was lower than enrollment in fall 2019 (50.8 million) by a difference of 1.4 million students (source, source). Public school enrollment was higher in all years from 2010 to 2019 than it was in 2020, ranging from 49.5 million students in fall 2010 to 50.8 million students in fall 2019 (source, source, source).

What were the demographics of public school students in fall 2020?

The 49.4 million public school students enrolled in prekindergarten through grade 12 in fall 2020 included (source):

To learn more about student demographics, explore other NCES Fast Facts, which focus on topics including:

Distance Learning

How many students were enrolled in distance learning in early 2021?

In February 2021, schools offered remote instruction, hybrid instruction, in-person instruction, or some combination of these types of instruction to their students (source). Among fourth- and eighth-grade students in February 2021:

Among fourth- and eighth-grade students in May 2021:

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.

Teachers

How many teachers were there in the United States in recent years?

In school year 2019–20, there were 3.2 million teachers in public schools (source). In that same year, there were 0.5 million teachers in private schools (source).

Visit our Fast Fact on teacher trends to learn more about the teaching profession in the United States.

Expenditures

How much was spent on PK–12 education in 2018–19?

(Note: Current expenditures per student exclude prekindergarten enrollment in Arizona, New York, and Oregon. Current expenditures include only expenditures for K-12 and special education preschool programs in California.)


COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY EDUCATION

Enrollment

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 college and university enrollment compare with enrollment in previous years?

College enrollment in fall 2020 (19.4 million students) was about 8 percent lower than in fall 2010 (21.0 million students), when enrollment was at its peak (source, source).

Distance Learning

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.

In spring 2020, some 87 percent of undergraduate students experienced any enrollment disruption or change at their postsecondary institution due to COVID-19, with 84 percent of students experiencing some or all in-person classes moved to online-only (source). 34 percent of students received technology or technical services from their postsecondary institution. These findings are based on preliminary data and may differ from estimates that will be available in the full survey sample and dataset released in 2022, which will address missing data in the findings.

Visit our Fast Fact on distance learning among postsecondary students to learn more about distance learning in the United States.

Attainment

During the 2019–20 academic year, how many degrees did colleges and universities award?

For more information:

NCES publishes a wide range of data on graduation rates, technology in education, college costs, fields of study (or majors), number of degrees awarded, 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.

Additional resources:

Other Resources:  (Listed by Release Date)