High schools see decline in graduates
Universities around the country are likely to be affected by a “modest decline” in high school graduates after almost two decades of growth but an overall increase in racial and ethnic diversity within the graduate pool, according to a study by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.
“This trend has been predicted for years as a natural result of an aging population in certain geographic areas, along with immigration trends and economic prosperity (and) employment opportunities,” said senior associate director of admission and coordinator of minority recruitment at Rice University Tamara Siler.
National high school graduates peaked at 3.4 million in 2010-11 but have declined to 3.2 to 3.3 million in 2013-14, according to the study.
Not all regions or states will follow the national trend exactly, however. The report projects that the Northeast and Midwest are expected to decline compared to the total high school graduates from 2008-09. Conversely, the South and West will continue to have sustained growth in graduates. In fact, the report predicts that by 2024-25, the nation’s overall number of high school graduates will return to a modest growth that is sustained by the West and South while the Midwest and Northeast continue to decline.
Specifically, the continued growth in the South will be led by Texas, which has a projected increase greater than 15 percent. The state is one of the faster-growing, drawing people in because of employment opportunities, affordable housing and a lower cost of living, Siler said. The result is that there will be consistent rises in the number of high school graduates and higher education enrollments.
“More non-Texas universities are coming to Texas to recruit,” UH director of student recruitment Jeff Fuller said. “That makes it much more of an opportunity for public universities and private universities to do things differently to try to make sure the students in Texas stay in Texas for their college education.”
One of the key points that Texas universities like UH can sell is the opportunity for employment after graduation, Fuller said.
“That’s the most important thing we can brag about,” Fuller said, “that an individual can stay in Texas, get their college degree and then go right into the workforce and still be at an edge for jobs because they know the state and they’re already in the state.”
Another challenge is one almost all states will face: addressing the particular needs of a diversifying student body. WICHE expects sharp drops in white, non-Hispanic and black, non-Hispanic graduates to be made up for by a growing number of Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander graduates.
“The changing landscape is already something that we are continuing to make adjustments to our recruitment efforts,” Fuller said. “Just making sure that if there are new techniques or avenues or new opportunities (by which) to present the University of Houston in front of different populations, then the University continues to do that.”