Crystal ball: fewer Midwest high school grads by 2021

If demographics are truly destiny then policymakers in the Midwest should take serious heed of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education's (WICHE) latest edition of Knocking at the College Door. The publication released last month analyzes recorded data and studies trends to forecast the numbers of high school graduates for the country, its major geographic regions, and individual states through the 2021-2022 school year.

One of the report's major predications is that the national "baby boom echo" will fade after 2007-2008, when graduates will peak at around 3.4 million. The number eventually will increase, with total graduates exceeding the current year's high by 2020-2021. The same does not hold true here in the Midwest, however, where the total will follow the national trend down and then continue to fall by 6.7 percent in the following years. Ohio's numbers are slated to max out next year at 124,275 before trending downward through 2014-2015 when 11,000 fewer students will graduate from high school.

WICHE also anticipates shifts in the racial and ethic makeup of graduating students across the country. As predicted, the 2018-2019 school year will be the first time that the nation's public high schools will have a majority of graduates from racial or ethnic minorities. This will come as a result of a decrease in the number of graduating white students and a substantial increase in the number of Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islanders. In the coming decade, Ohio alone will see the number of Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander graduates increase by 81.3 and 34 percent respectively.

These findings prompt the question of how Ohio and the rest of the country will respond? It seems to be the right time for change. Populations are shifting and so should the ways in which schools serve them. Indeed, a first step in these reforms will be addressing the inequities of funding to better assist the areas receiving the influx of students. (Fordham's own report on Weighted Student Funding--see here--could provide a possible solution.) But there is no time to waste in moving reforms forward; rapid changes in student population require equally rapid changes in schooling. If only those fortune tellers at WICHE could work magic too. Read the full report here.

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